Loyalist terror at cross-community event
By Caítlin Doherty
It was a night that the Catholic pupils of Drumcree College and their Protestant counterparts from Portadown College were looking forward to. A concert held on Tuesday in Portadown featuring Irish flautist James Galway and Maire Brennan from Clannad was intended to help the pupils raise funds for a trip to Canada.
It was in a spirit of openness and tolerance that over 1,000 people, including Orangeman and Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble and British Secretary of State Peter Mandelson attended the concert in St John's Chapel on the Garvaghy Road.
During the concert, however, Orangemen and loyalist supporters engaged in a simultaneous drum-banging contest on Drumcree hill, a stone's throw from the function. Eight Lambeg drums could be heard in the distance.
The cross-community event then turned into a nightmare when over 300 loyalist protestors turned up for the follow-up reception at Portadown College on the Killicomaine road. Teachers, parents and pupils were trapped in the school as mayhem erupted around them. The RUC and British Army were deployed in force as loyalists shouted abuse and threw missiles at the RUC lines and the school. Several cars were damaged during the protest.
Many nationalists who were participating in the event had to abandon their plans to attend the reception when they were turned back at RUC check-points and told that their security couldn't be guaranteed if they travelled to the school for the reception.
The traumatic experience has added to the tensions that have already been running high after a series of attacks on Catholic homes in Portadown on 17 March. News that the Portadown LOL is holding a mass rally at Drumcree hill on Saturday 3 June has also increased fears of further trouble. Residents have already been placed under curfew for over 24 hours to facilitate a 27 May Orange Order parade on the Lower Garvaghy Road.