Category: Archive

Drumcree protests reveal Orange Order out of step

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST — This year’s marching season in the North has left the ranks of loyalism divided as never before, with hardliners and modernizers in the Orange Order battling for control, and tension between the Ulster Defense Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force exploding into more violence.

UVF member Andrew Cairns was brutally beaten and then shot to death by UDA members in full view of three hundred people at an Eleventh Night bonfire in Larne, East Antrim.

Three men and one woman were in court on Monday after the murder. Brothers Alan and David Murray, along with Ryan Connor, faced murder charges, while Joslyn Magill faced charges of withholding information and assisting an offender. The three men are pleading not guilty. Magill has admitted carrying a man in her car but says she did not know he had been involved in the shooting.

Meanwhile, Michael Stone, one the UDA’s most notorious killers, is due for release on Friday. Loyalists have expressed hope that because of the respect in which he is held by both groups he will be able to resolve their differences.

Also, in a sectarian attack on July 15, a Catholic civil servant narrowly escaped serious injury after a loyalist bomb went off under his car in Castlewellan, Co. Down. Colin Lavery, 21, suffered only leg injuries after the device exploded under his car as he got into it outside his home on Saturday morning. No paramilitary group has admitted responsibility, but dissident loyalists are understood to have carried out the random sectarian attack.

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Order split

The Orange Order, the oldest of the loyalist organizations, remains deeply split over whether it should meet the Parades Commission and nationalist residents’ groups to discuss contentious marches. The organization is also split by differences over the recent street violence and rioting, after leading members of its Portadown district called for all-out support for their demand to march through the nationalist Garvaghy Road area, and then refused to condemn the violence. Instead they embraced the support of UDA hardman Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair.

In the days following the "Twelfth," Portadown Orangemen defied the head of the Order by going ahead with street protests in support of their Drumcree standoff. A group of about 50, including the Portadown district master, Harold Gracey, were stopped from heading toward the Garvaghy Road.

Such acts have alienated many Protestants. As a result, the Order faces an uncertain future with some more liberal members quietly either resigning or ceasing to be active within its ranks.

The grand master of the Orange Order in Ireland, Robert Saulters, said that people have had enough, and it is time the Portadown Orangemen reflected on their strategy. Saulters said the Portadown Orangemen had acted without seeking the advice of the Grand Lodge of Ireland in calling for the protests and Orangemen are in danger of losing public support. However, David Jones, a spokesman for the Portadown Lodge, replied by saying it was quite easy for someone based 25 miles away from Drumcree to give orders.

The Portadown District’s deputy grand master, David Burrows, said protest must continue and he challenged the Order’s leaders to come up with a better idea. He said, "It’s no good saying we support something and then going and sitting back and doing nothing."

The Belfast county grand master, Dawson Bailie, backed Saulters’s call for an end to street protests. "He has given a lead and I believe as we elected him and put him in that position we should be prepared to support him," Bailie said. The Derry deputy grand master, Dougie Caldwell, also agreed with Saulters.

Scaled-back security

The security presence at Drumcree has been scaled back. RUC officers removed barbed wires and the security cordon last week. The huge steel security barrier blocking Drumcree Bridge was cut into two pieces and taken away.

A British Army spokesman said troop levels at Drumcree had decreased but soldiers were at bases ready to be redeployed within minutes. However, it is expected that if things remain fairly calm, the extra 2,000 soldiers drafted into the North will be pulled back to England soon.

Earlier, Garvaghy Road Residents spokesman Brendan McCionnaith appeared in court where the prosecution dropped four charges against him relating to an incident in Portadown on 1 July. He had been facing charges of assault, disorderly behavior and behavior likely to cause a breach of the peace.

He said afterward the charges were malicious and should never have been brought in the first place.

In other violence, on Sunday, July 9, a bomb exploded outside a police station in Stewartstown, Co. Tyrone. The so-called "Real IRA" are being blamed amid reports that the group is now attracting more recruits and is planning further attacks.

Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein said those responsible were "the enemies of the peace process" and called on them to desist. The "Real IRA" is supposedly on cease-fire since its Omagh bombing, which killed 29 people.

Police said they had no advance warning of the blast and the alert was only raised by local residents who noticed two people behaving suspiciously. The damage caused was mostly to civilian houses. The RUC station was only slightly damaged. The bomb contained 250 pounds of home-made explosive.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, a group of children escaped injury when they found a loyalist pipe bomb hidden near a playground in Armagh. An 11-year-old boy played with the bomb for over an hour, bouncing it off a wall before handing it over to an adult.

The device, a 10-inch piece of pipe filled with explosives, blew up while British army bomb disposal experts were trying to make it safe. No one was injured. In another sign of increased loyalist activity, a submachine gun and 90 rounds of ammunition were found in a loyalist part of Lurgan, Co. Armagh.

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