NI man charged on RUC clashes

 

A 20-year-old Portadown man appeared in court yesterday on charges of riotous behaviour following skirmishes with police at the Dungannon Road near Drumcree early yesterday morning. He was released on bail.

Six officers suffered superficial injuries in clashes with about 150 loyalist youths, who fired firecrackers and pesticide canisters. Three policemen were nauseous after inhaling the pesticide, which was scattered in a smoke bomb, and one was taken to hospital in Belfast with severe vomiting.

Police recovered catapults and ball-bearings. A police spokesman said last night they believed the incidents were part of a strategy to test out police lines by loyalist youths with the possible intent of using blast or pipe-bombs.

Last night there was a line of British army jeeps across the field in case of further trouble, while soldiers from the Argyll and Southern Highlanders battalion patrolled the barbed-wire fencing on the field perimeter. St John's Catholic cemetery, school and church nearby were also heavily fenced and patrolled.

Mr Joe Duffy, of the Garvaghy Road residents' group, said that if Mr Harold Gracey, Portadown District Master of the Orange Order, was a man of his word he would do what he said he would last Sunday, if there was any violence, and leave Drumcree.

The Grand Secretary of the Orange Order and Armagh County Grand Master, Mr Denis Watson, said last night the youths involved "are not welcome here".

Chris Anderson adds:

The Red Hand Defenders say they will "forcibly restrain all persons involved in disturbances at Drumcree". The dissident loyalist group, which earlier this year claimed responsibility for the murder of the Lurgan solicitor, Ms Rosemary Nelson, gave the warning in a coded statement released yesterday afternoon.