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PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde said yesterday he was optimistic that the summer marching season would pass off peacefully.

Speaking ahead of the annual July 12 Orange parades, he said the marching season so far had gone "extremely well".

Mr Orde added: "Drumcree was very peaceful, the Whiterock parade went very well.

"I am looking forward hopefully, to a quiet week next week."

Mr Orde told a meeting of the Policing Board in Belfast that the improved situation was not just a reflection of the efforts of police but of the "commitment of the community and in particular those who have interacted between groups".

But he hit out at the dangers of rumours which he said gripped Northern Ireland at this time of year.

He cited the case of an incident at the Mater Hospital in North Belfast after an Orange parade last month which resulted in reports about loyalists rioting in the hospital, terrifying staff and patients and complaints of a slow police response.

Mr Orde used video footage from hospital security cameras both outside and inside the reception to refute the allegations.

He said: "It was not a riot. There was a large number of people milling around, I think they were trying to use the toilets in the hospital, and their behaviour has not been deemed illegal."

But he accepted staff were concerned about the large volume of people.

Speaking of loyalist flag flying, Mr Orde said he was pleased to see far fewer paramilitary flags and more national ones.

He revealed police were removing paramilitary flags where appropriate, but the solution to the flags issue was a community one.

Mr Orde said provoking people with flags was not a sensible way forward and was against all the current trends towards a peaceful marching season.


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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 8, 2004
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