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Monday, 8 July, 2002, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
Drumcree violence 'unacceptable'
Security forces deploy water cannon at Drumcree Hill
Police used water cannon to disperse crowds
The "loutish" behaviour of a small minority at the annual Orange Order parade at Drumcree has been condemned by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

There were angry confrontations after Sunday's parade was stopped from passing through a mainly nationalist area of Portadown, County Armagh.

Downing Street praised the professionalism of the police and security forces and described the behaviour of those causing trouble as "totally unacceptable".

The police officer in charge of the security operation said action would be taken against those involved.

Prime Minister Tony Blair
Tony Blair:"Disappointed by the loutish behaviour of a small minority"

Assistant Chief Constable Stephen White said a number of people had already been identified and others would be identified in connection with the violence in which 24 police officers were injured.

He said some of the protesters had been wearing Orange collarettes.

Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble condemned the violence and said the Orangemen involved had let down themselves and the Orange Order.

Mr Trimble, in whose constituency Drumcree is situated, was speaking after a visiting one of the injured police officers in hospital.

"The injuries that have been inflicted on the police cannot be supported and we hope very much that there's no more incidents of this nature," he said.

The Orange Order's executive officer George Patton also condemned the violence.

"Any right thinking person would have been absolutely horrified at what they saw on their television screens," he said.

During the trouble on Sunday, which lasted less than an hour, police and soldiers fired three plastic bullets and at least two civilians were injured.

Church of Ireland Primate Archbishop Robin Eames said the violence was "deplorable, disgusting and completely unacceptable".

An injured police officer recovers in hospital
An injured police officer recovers in hospital
"The verbal and physical attacks on the police have once more portrayed the ugly face of violence in this province across the world," he said.

The rector of Drumcree parish church, the Reverend John Pickering, said violence was confined to a few rogue elements within the Orange Order.

"I hope that they will acknowledge what they have done and repent and change their ways so we can work for a time of peace, calm and stability," he said.

The Chairman of the Policing Board, Professor Desmond Read, also condemned what he called the "vicious violence" directed at the police.

Earlier, the SDLP assembly member for the area, Brid Rodgers said the Orange Order now had a responsibility to co-operate with the police.

'Anger and disgust'

Loyalist protesters storm the police barricade at Drumcree
Police struggled to contain protesters at the barricade

Following a service at Drumcree Church of Ireland, the Portadown district lodge made the short walk to the security barrier stopping them from entering the Garvaghy Road.

More than 2,000 police officers and soldiers were in place for the security operation on Sunday - the fifth successive year the parade has been restricted.

A letter of protest was handed in to a senior police officer at the security barriers.

A short time later a small crowd of supporters then forced open the gates which were in place to stop the march going down the road.

They began throwing stones at the police.

Click here to see more images from the day's events

The Orange Order argues that following the march route - from Portadown to Drumcree Church and back - is a celebration of their heritage. But many Catholics regard it as provocative.

Fury at the block on Orangemen returning from their church service at Drumcree along that route has led to fierce clashes in the past.

The event is part of the Protestant marching season which commemorates William of Orange's 1690 Battle of the Boyne victory over Catholic King James II, and culminates in celebrations on 12 July.

In previous years when the Orange parade has been forced down the Garvaghy Road amid a massive security operation, it has triggered serious disturbances in republican and nationalist areas.

BBC NI's Julian O'Neill:
"The situation is currently relaxed although police remain in numbers"
Orange Order's executive officer George Patton:
"Any right-thinking person would be horrified by the violence"
Assistant Chief Constable Stephen White:
"Why were Orangemen taking part in a protest where they knew violence would happen"

Your reaction to this year's Orange parade
Find out more about the Drumcree dispute in Northern Ireland

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07 Jul 02 | N Ireland
07 Jul 02 | N Ireland
06 Jul 02 | N Ireland
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