Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Quiet Parade: Part of Slow March toward Peace?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Quiet Parade: Part of Slow March toward Peace?

Article excerpt

Officials in Britain and Northern Ireland are breathing a sigh of relief in the wake of Sunday's decision by the Orange Order not to parade down a mainly Catholic road in Portadown, but remain wary of possible future unrest.

The standoff was only one of several planned Protestant demonstrations in the so-called "marching season" that is just getting under way.

Supporters and members of the Protestant fraternal order, often blamed for fanning sectarian hatred, marched from downtown Portadown to Drumcree Church. But the group did not confront British security forces deployed to keep them from the mainly Catholic neighborhood on Garvaghy Road. "I've lived in Portadown all my life, and Catholics have been intimidated by the Orange Order parades," says Margaret Hughes, a Catholic grandmother living 300 yards from the massive security operation. "I think they'll get down the road so they'll back the political deal." The hundreds of British soldiers and police manning a concrete and steel barrier were even more daunting than measures taken last year, which was the first time the Orange Order was blocked from completing its traditional route since parades began in 1807. The nonviolent atmosphere and smaller protests that prevailed at the start of this year's Drumcree standoff is proof to some that Northern Ireland's Protestant community is losing heart for the battle to retain political dominance. Other observers say it may be a bid by the Ulster Unionist party, Northern Ireland's largest, to win concessions in political negotiations. Northern Ireland's First Minister-elect, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble, is a member of the Orange Order. In the past, he was in the forefront of the protests. Now, with a Nobel Peace Prize on his resume for helping to broker last year's Good Friday peace agreement, Mr. Trimble is being criticized by the Portadown Orangemen, who say they feel sold out and isolated by political leaders. …

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