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Orangemen stopped in their tracks by security ring of steel.

A HUGE security blitz code-named operation Humming Bird turned a march crisis into a waiting game yesterday.

Orangemen, stopped by an Army cordon of steel and razor wire, settled in for a long siege in the hope of forcing the Garvaghy Road ban to be lifted.

Four thousand troops and police stopped them marching along the stretch of road through the Portadown Catholic estate.

The Orangemen fanned out across fields, scattering herds of cows, and then settled down to await developments.

Their leaders called on them to remain calm and let other demonstrations elsewhere in Northern Ireland spread their message of defiance.

Two men who slipped through the barbed wire were arrested and taken away to be charged.

People on the Garvaghy Road were warned by their community leaders to be vigilant.

Brendan Mac Cionnaith said: "If the law is to be properly upheld, the security forces must make sure that the Orangemen encamped at Drumcree are not reinforced."

It was the trappings of trench warfare which stopped the Orangemen in their tracks yesterday. Their forebears, who fought at the Battle of the Somme, didn't face obstacles as impenetrable as they went over the top in World War One.

The valley below the little country church had been turned into a military no-go zone of barbed wire and ditches.

Blocking the path of the marchers as they left the church was a solid steel barricade locked into position across the country lane by hydraulic trucks.

Fortifications built strong enough to defy an infantry assault stretched for hundreds of yards on either side.

The first line of defence was a trench 6ft deep and 12ft wide backed by earthwork.

By itself it would have stopped a tank.

Behind it were three lines of barbed wire entanglement strung out by Royal Engineers schooled in preparing defensive position.

Dotted along the fortifications were mobile floodlights beamed into no- man's land.

Army technicians had erected 50ft masts topped by television cameras aimed all along the lines of barbed wire.

Behind them were more masts carrying =detection equipment to guard against infiltrators who might try to sneak through at night.

The massive defensive line was backed by 3,000 troops and policemen.

The RUC riot squads in body armour were deployed as the Orangemen made their token protest.

But the police unit was withdrawn immediately afterwards.

One of the Army's crack regiments, the Scots Guards, had a full company on alert to back up the police.

The troops worked from a battalion command post which was in contact with a score of armoured personnel carriers carrying units ready to swing into action.

A military hospital had been set up.

Around the flashpoint, more men stood ready as reinforcements.

The military operation centred on Portadown's football stadium where a field kitchen fed the troops and sent ration packs out to the men manning the front line.

Overhead, both the RUC and Army spotter planes watched the parade.

Faced with the gigantic opposition, the Orangemen filed out across the fields around the church, preparing for a long siege.

The troops and police kept the immediate area free of bystanders, making sure that no crowds would gather to cause opposition.

The last obstacle that would have faced the Orangemen was huge battery of TV cameras spread out along the route.

Said one frustrated marcher: "We might have risked the barbed wire but we had no chance of getting past that lot."
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Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Gorrod, Joe
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 6, 1998

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