Category: Archive

Loyalists march in Portadown

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

PORTADOWN — A UVF band, complete with black hoods and UVF badges, was among an estimated crowd of 5,000 loyalists who marched through Portadown in the first of many end-of-year protests against the re-routing or the Orange parade at Drumcree 1998.

As the marchers passed St. John’s Catholic chapel on their outward and return route, band after band struck up "The Sash" and gave two-fingered salutes to a group of nationalist residents standing on the other side of RUC lines.

Lambeg drums were also carried at the march, which attracted a smaller attendance than organizers had hoped for. In bitterly cold weather, there was some token breaching of RUC lines at Drumcree, but no concerted attempt to break through.

There was, however, much waving of Union flags and cat-calling with nationalist residents responding by singing "We wish you a Merry Christmas" to the Orangemen. Battle was conducted by music and noise, with only a few fireworks being thrown, mainly in the direction of reporters.

Later, after nightfall, four nationalists were injured in a fracas outside a bar in Portadown. One had to be treated for injuries in hospital. Breandan Mac Cionnaith of the Garvaghy Road Residents’ Association said a nationalist woman was also attacked before the parade began.

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He said Saturday’s march was one of dozens of illegal marches conducted on the fringes of the nationalist area of Portadown over the last six months. Others are planned for Dec. 23rd and over the Christmas break, with Orangemen pledged to "get down the road" by the end of 1998.

Mac Cionnaith has accused the Order of being in breach of an agreement it had made earlier in the year to conduct itself in a manner conducive to improving community relations and encouraging a neutral atmosphere in the town.

There was anger in Portadown also after Denis Watson, the grand master of the Orange Order in Armagh, denied that Catholics were too scared to do their shopping in the town center and claimed most shoplifters in the town were Catholic.

"When I look at court reports for shoplifting from the town center, I see most of the accused are Catholics," he said.

The residents have published a 10-page dossier detailing attacks and illegal marches in the area since July. At proximity talks held this week, chaired by the British prime minister’s chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, residents were assured that the RUC would provide details of the numbers of people charged with offenses under the new Parades and Processions (Northern Ireland) Act, which makes defying a ban on a march illegal.

Action against Trimble?

Meanwhile, the Orange Order is considering disciplinary action against the leader of the Ulster Unionists, David Trimble, for attending a Catholic funeral. Trimble and party chairman Denis Rogan were at the funeral in Buncrana of the three young boys killed in the Omagh bombing, John Barker, 12, Sean McLaughlin, 11, and Oran Doherty, 8.

Trimble and Rogan were widely praised for making such a gesture of shared respect. Both men, however, are members of the Orange Order, which requires that its members are Protestant, of Protestant parents, with Protestant wives and agree never to enter a Catholic church for an act of "Popish worship."

Accordingly, disciplinary action against them has begun at the home lodges, Trimble’s in Bangor, Co. Down, and Rogan’s in Belfast. Rogan has issued a defiant statement saying he has no regrets about attending the funerals.

Following events in Omagh, he said, it was essential that the UUP paid respect to all the families of the deceased, irrespective of their religious denomination. The three victims from County Donegal were all innocent victims of the most brutal terrorist atrocity ever seen in Northern Ireland.

Life sentence in cop killing

In another development linked to the continuing dispute over the re-routing of Orange parades, two men were sentenced to life in jail for the murder of an off-duty police officer last June outside a bar in Ballymoney, Co. Antrim.

The RUC man was overpowered and kicked to death by a loyalist mob angry at the rerouting of an Orange parade in nearby Dunloy. Constable Greg Taylor was 41 and had three children.

Leslie Henry and Alastair Stephenson — both from the town — were found guilty of his murder. Two other men admitted manslaughter and were jailed for four years. Two others pleaded guilty to causing an affray and were sentenced to 12 and 18 months.

The court was told the men had been arguing with Constable Taylor about the RUC policing of Orange parades in the nationalist village of Dunloy. The row had carried on out in the street as angry loyalists kicked the RUC man to death.

New attacks

There were two attacks last Wednesday on nationalist targets, in Counties Antrim and Derry, with a new loyalist grouping, the Orange Volunteers, claiming responsibility.

Many suspect that LVF members were behind both attacks. They are ostensibly on cease-fire, but along with the so-called "Red Hand Defenders," it’s suspected there is a significant cross-over between loyalist groupings.

The first attack was at McKenna’s bar outside the village of Crumlin, Co. Antrim. It was packed with customers when a small explosive device was placed at the door. There was damage but no injuries.

The second attack was on a nationalist family in County Derry. A farmer was sitting in his living room when his house, in a mixed, rural area, was raked with gunfire.

Two shotgun blasts were fired, and he was only saved by the double glazing in the windows. Then, one grenade bounced off a window, exploded and damaged a porch. Another exploded on the front lawn.

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