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22 May 1997 Edition

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No walk without talk in Dunloy

By Stephen Delaney.

Residents in Dunloy, County Antrim successfully prevented a sectarian march from parading through their village on Sunday 18 May. They had turned out in force to protest against the planned parade through the village because they distrusted RUC guarantees made earlier in the week that they would prevent the loyalists from marching.

This distrust was clarified when news came through that ongoing negotiations had broken down between the Dunloy residents group, Orangemen and RUC. At approximately 6.00pm the RUC moved more landrovers into position to reinforce the 30 or so already parked across Station Road blocking residents at the village and leading people to believe that the RUC had given the Orangemen permission to march from the bottom of Station Road to the Orange Hall past a small nationalist estate Greenacres and some other isolated houses on the road.

Residents, elderly and young went through fields past the RUC and made their way to the estate.

And although the residents remained restrained some of the several hundred RUC personnel on duty provocatively deployed in full riot gear and prepared plastic bullet guns. A local man trying to retrieve his young daughter from the road was seized by three RUC members, assaulted and bundled into the back of a landrover. Outraged residents who witnessed the attack immediately called for the man's release and after dialogue between RUC chiefs and Sinn Féin's James McCarry, the man was released.

A local woman at the scene told An Phoblacht, ``this is ridiculous, we have always been more than reasonable with the Orangemen. They were meant to be going to a church service, but all they want to do is march past a Catholic estate. The residents' committee asked them to drive to the Orange Hall and walk to their church, but they weren't happy unless they got marching. I'm fed up being reasonable. If it wasn't for the intervention of these people from the top end of the town God knows what would have happened''.

At the bottom of Station Road a 200 strong crowd of loyalists included Union Jack waving Pauline Gilmore of the UDP, Ian Paisley, some Harryville protesters, Dunloy Apprentice Boys including DUP candidate David Tweed. Dunloy Orangeman John Finlay addressed the crowd, claiming he had been ``personally assured'' by RUC chief constable Ronnie Flanagan that they were going to march.

However when it became clear that they would not be allowed to march the loyalists called on DUP leader Ian Paisley to ``mobilise the Protestants of North Antrim''. Others called for larger protests at Our Lady's Catholic Church in Harryville in Ballymena. But Paisley called for no confrontation with RUC stating, ``this is a battle for another day and another time''. Later that evening 30 or so loyalists demolished a partly-built house and rioted with the RUC, before dispersing 5 hours later.

Members of the Dunloy Parents and Residents Group were disappointed and felt they were duped by both RUC and the local Orangemen. ``We were always ready to compromise, we are quite happy for people to go to their church service as they do here every Sunday. We are quite happy for local Apprentice Boys to attend their local lodge, but we will not tolerate marchers, many of whom are from outside, parading through our village in a triumphant manner''.

The spokesperson added ``we are always happy to negotiate with the Loyal Orders and RUC to help resolve this situation.''

Sinn Féin's local representative Martin O'Neill was also critical of the RUC, ``if the RUC said they would block this march today they should have done so. I must commend the nationalists for their restraint. It's back to talks now but they will be made much harder with this latest episode''.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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