Hermon promised to stop Orange marches

 

A FORMER RUC chief constable, Sir John Hermon, assured the late Cardinal 6 Fiaich that he would call in a battalion of British soldiers to help reroute an Orange demonstration from a Catholic area of Portadown in 1985, he has disclosed in his newly published diaries, Holding the Line.

In March 1985, a St Patrick's Day parade had been prevented from passing through the centre of Portadown and this had caused widespread resentment among the local Catholic population, Sir John writes.

"Without a corresponding change of approach to loyalist parades in the town, I felt that the RUC would become increasingly alienated from the Catholic population."

Sir John decided to stop the Portadown Orangemen from marching through the Catholic Tunnel and Obins Street areas on their way to the church at Drumcree.

The former Chief Constable met the then Catholic primate, Cardinal O Fiaich, in the days before the Twelfth demonstrations to assure him he would reroate the Obins Street demonstration.

Sir John adds: "He reacted with scepticism, doubting either the will or the ability of the force to carry this out. Nothing I said seemed to convince him.

"Then, quite spontaneously as I searched my mind for something to enlist his confidence, I added: `Should there be an attempt to force an entry into the area through police lines, it'll not succeed as there will be a battalion of troops occupying the Tunnel and Obins Street.'"

"This was literally a breathstopper. His Eminence gasped: `Do you mean that?'"

In the event, the RUC stopped the Orangemen and rioting broke out, with loyalists attacking the RUC in the town for several days. Fifty two RUC officers were injured and 43 people arrested for rioting.