Violence at Drumcree is condemned by RUC and Grand Lodge
The RUC Chief Constable, Mr Ronnie Flanagan, and the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland have condemned Thursday night's violence at Drumcree in which 10 police officers and four protesters were injured. Mr Flanagan dismissed claims by local Orange members that the police had "provoked" the violence, while the Grand Orange Lodge also distanced itself from this claim by Portadown Orange spokesman Mr David Jones.
Despite the disturbances, Mr Jones and some other Portadown Orangemen continued to insist the long-running protests would persist until Orangemen were allowed proceed down the nationalist Garvaghy Road and complete the parade they started 154 days ago.
Mr Jones, the Portadown Orange press officer, said "any action that was taken against the police was as a result of the unprovoked attack on the crowd". "We intend to continue the protest until we get down Garvaghy Road. The situation can be resolved when the parade gets down the road," said Mr Jones, following the trouble in which 1,000 Orangemen and loyalists demonstrated in support of Drumcree Orangemen.
Mr Flanagan rejected claims of police heavy-handedness: "Did you ever hear such nonsense - people arrived with fireworks in their back pockets, with iron bars, with cudgels, with staves, with bricks and bottles." Those who clashed with police arrived at Drumcree with the intention of causing violence, he said.
"If you engage in protest knowing that others will defy the law you need to think very carefully where you stand in that protest," said Mr Flanagan, adding: "The answer to this does not lie in violence. The answer lies in dialogue and accommodation, and people have to consider that." The Grand Orange Lodge "totally and unreservedly" condemned the violence, and significantly was implicitly critical of the claims by Mr Jones and other Orange members that police caused the trouble.
"How the violence actually started is merely pedantic - the truth of the matter is that people of peaceful intent are not in possession of golf balls and fireworks in such a situation," the Grand Lodge said.
"There is a simple message for those who would sully the name of Orangeism and use the pretext of a peaceful protest for their own ends. Stay away, we don't want you," it added.
The banning by the Parades Commission of the parade in July prompted widespread loyalist violence then and since. In July the three Quinn children were burnt to death after an arson attack during the height of the disturbances.
In October RUC Constable Frankie O'Reilly died after he was caught up in what is widely believed to have been a loyalist blast bomb attack in September. Repeated applications by the Orangemen to hold the parade had been turned down. They have again applied to march on December 19th.
The North's security minister, Mr Adam Ingram, said the latest violence was "a throwback to behaviour that the great majority of people in Northern Ireland want an end to". The only way forward was by local accommodation.