On Saturday, a convoy of military vehicles, loaded with heavy fortifications, including earth-moving equipment, concrete blocks and fencing moved into place to convert the fields into a scene resembling a World War I battlefield.
The British army dug into the fields around Drumcree church, throwing razor wire fences for half a mile in each direction, erecting floodlighting and platforms from which to film proceedings.
A solid, metal, 12-foot-high barricade was built on the bridge leading from the church to the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road area, complete with warnings that interfering with it was a criminal offence.
The Orange Order strung its own taped barrier about 5 yards back from the barricade, on the church side, and marshaled it with stewards who prevented any incursions.
A series of court cases is due to begin shortly arising out of last year’s parade and violence at the bridge at Drumcree. It’s believed the prosecution case will rely heavily on police video of events when stones, rocks, bottles and wood were hurled at police.
The Garvaghy Road area this year, however, was eerily quiet. Many nationalists are concerned at what the Orange Order is planning for 2004 and are concerned that the British government may “reward” them for their peaceful disposition this year.
In the days before the parade, there was intense speculation about a “plan” put forward to the British government by the Orange Order to try to break the deadlock over the Drumcree parade.
The plan would involve an Orange parade down the Garvaghy Road, without necessarily nationalist consent, to be followed by the setting up of a civic forum to include both the Order and the Garvaghy Road Residents’ Coalition, along with other groups from the area.
The order said, should the civic forum not give its consent, it would no longer insist on marching down the Garvaghy Road in future years.
Breandan Mac Cionnaith, the GRRC spokesman, said the Orange Order’s plan was simply a repeat of an earlier plan discussed several years ago.
Speaking at the barricade on Sunday, Nigel Dawson and David Burrows, the secretary and deputy master of the Portadown District Lodge of the Orange Order, said they would never give up on their demand to march the Garvaghy Road.