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19 April 2001 Edition

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Bug halts bigots but Brits march on

If we were looking for a silver lining to the renewed Foot and Mouth crisis that has convulsed the Six Counties and put great stress on farmers, the only one to be found was in the quiet streets of the Lower Ormeau on Easter Monday morning.

A community that has endured decades of sectarian assassination and loyalist coat trailing had been given a reprieve, albeit probably only a temporary one. Locals were spared the indignity of an invasion by unwelcome Apprentice Boys and the equally unwelcome hordes of riot-clad RUC members, British soldiers and armour it would have taken to secure their passage.

The image of the Parades Commission has taken a serious knock. Its assertion that the Apprentice Boys had engaged in meaningful dialogue was a gross distortion and exaggeration of the facts. The residents of the Garvaghy Road, well used to false assurances, will be watching these events very carefully and no doubt with apprehension. If the definition of meaningful dialogue can be stretched to encompass the reluctant and second-hand efforts of the Apprentice Boys, how far further may the Parades Commission be willing to bend the truth to appease loyalism this summer?

Meanwhile, in rural areas, where fear of all strangers has replaced the normal hearty welcome for tourists, due to Foot and Mouth outbreaks, continuing British Army foot patrols have been met with incredulous anger. As Sinn Féin Slieve Gullion representative Colman Burns pointed out this week, these uniformed trespassers are the single biggest threat to the 'fortress farm' approach to countering the disease.

These troops are back and forward to England, where Foot and Mouth is out of control, yet they tramp at will across Irish farms!

People should report all British military activity on farms to their local Sinn Féin representative to be raised in the media and with the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin. It's not on.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1