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Orangemen Hold Their Ground

Days after a firebomb resulted in the tragic deaths of three Catholic boys, the march in Northern Ireland goes on.

The parades may be over, the violence may have ebbed, and the crowds near the Drumcree Anglican church have thinned, but the men of the Orange Order settled in Wednesday for what may be a long siege to demand their right to march through a Catholic neighborhood.

"Anybody who thinks that we are beaten and it's over is totally misreading the situation. We are still going to be here," said David Jones, spokesman for the Portadown Orange Lodges.

"We are reviewing all the time where the protest action should go."

Wednesday marks the 11th day that members of Northern Ireland's largest Protestant fraternal order have been blocked by barbed wire, trenches, police, and soldiers. The police and soldiers are enforcing a decision by the Parades Commission, created after trouble at Drumcree the past two summers, to forbid the march from going through a hostile Catholic neighborhood in Portadown.

Two years ago, officials stopped the march for four days, but gave up in the face of violence across Northern Ireland by Protestant hard-liners. Last year, police simply forced the march through Catholic protesters.

But this year, authorities held firm against widespread violence, which reached its depth Sunday with the firebombing that killed Chrissie Quinn's three boys.

Police said they believed the family was targeted because Quinn shared her home with her Protestant boyfriend. Two men were being questioned, police said.

Quinn is Catholic, but was raising the boys as Protestants because she thought it would make life easier for them in Ballymoney, a Protestant stronghold about 40 miles northwest of Belfast.

"We meet in sorrow at the death of these children," the Rev. Peter Forde, the Catholic priest in charge of the funeral service said Monday. "But our shared sorrow is a beacon of hope for this country...May it light our way ahead."

But the calamity did not stop the protests. Police said about 300 people held their ground at Drumcree overnight Tuesday, and some threw bombs or fired ball bearings at police and soldiers. Police responded with plastic bullets, and several people were arrested.

Other Protestant hard-liners exploded gas cylinders at a crowd-control barrier at the entrance to the Catholic neighborhood.

Some influential Orangemen wanted to end the standoff after the deaths of Richard, Mark, and Jason Quinn, who were buried Tuesday. But the Portadown lodges reject any responsibility for the wave of violence, and say they are in a fight for their right to walk freely in their own land.