Loyalists to gather at Drumcree

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An attempt to reignite the Drumcree parade dispute could be the next move by loyalists seeking to escalate sectarian tensions over Brexit.

Messages have been circulated on social media encouraging loyalists to attend a protest in Portadown on Sunday.

The anti-Catholic Orange Order have been banned from holding provocative marches down the nationalist Garvaghy Road in the north Armagh town since 1998.

The dispute which began in 1995 sparked serious violence across the north after the then RUC police beat protesting nationalists off the road to facilitate the coat-trailing march.

Garvaghy Road residents spokesman Breandán MacCionnaith said the attendance of Orangemen at their annual symbolic Drumcree protest in recent years has been low “so it has little impact on the nationalist community locally.

“The Portadown Orange leadership are obviously hoping that issues around the EU Protocol may help boost their numbers this year,” he said.

“Even if that should be the case, it is unlikely there will be any repeat of, or return to, the huge disruptive protests of the late 1990’s.”

SDLP assembly member Dolores Kelly said: “We are coming out of a pandemic and people are emotionally and psychologically wrecked and the Drumcree dispute is long since over.

“That’s the last thing we need and I don’t think anybody wants it. People have moved on and they should move because they have been left behind.”

The biggest day in the marching calendar is ‘the Twelfth’, July 12, the anniversary of a Protestant 17th century battle victory in County Meath.

Replacing the traditional 18 large events due to the Covid-19 pandemic, about a hundred small parades are being planned for the day by the Orange Order.

Minor incidents of violence have continued at ancillary loyalist band parades, with a family from County Waterford lucky to escape from a car park in Omagh on Saturday night, June 26. Their car was subjected to sectarian attack as loyalist bands gathered for a parade in the town.

The family’s vehicle was pelted with eggs as they stopped to get a takeaway pizza. As they sought help to get away, a PSNI man smirked at them.

“There were a lot of bands getting ready for the parade,” said the man, who did not wish to be identified.

“But we honestly didn’t think anything of it when we stopped. I thought days like this were long in the past. That we were in any danger didn’t even cross my mind.

“We were away for 10 or 15 minutes around 8pm and when we came back the car was covered in eggs.

“There were a couple of people standing close by and when we asked them if they had seen anything they told us ‘no’.

“At that time the car park was packed with people, and it was only then the penny dropped that the car could have been targeted as it had a southern registration plate.”

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