Parades body acknowledges “Drumcree solved” perception

Posted By: July 08, 2017

Connla Young. Irish News. Belfast. Saturday, July 8, 2017

THE Parades Commission has acknowledged a “perception” that the Drumcree dispute has been resolved as Orangemen prepare to gather again in Portadown – 20 years after they last walked down Garvaghy Road.

Hundreds of members are expected to attend an annual church service on the outskirts of the Co Armagh town tomorrow.

However, they have once again been banned from making a return journey along the nationalist Garvaghy Road.

The order had wanted to bring three bands and an unknown number of participants and supporters along the road.

Orangemen have been holding regular protests at Drumcree since they were banned from walking the route in 1998. At the height of the marching dispute, there was rioting in areas across the north and three Catholic brothers, Richard (11) Mark (nine) and Jason Quinn (seven), were killed after loyalists firebombed their home in Ballymoney, Co Antrim.

The Commission has said that in addition to weekly attempts to walk down Garvaghy Road there are around 45 loyalist or unionist parades in Portadown each year.

In its determination, it noted, “there is amongst the wider community a perception that the dispute has been ‘resolved’ or consigned to the past.”

However, it assessed that “the dispute remains the latent power to stir intercommunal tension.”

SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly last night warned against any move towards allowing the Orange Order to march down Garvaghy Road in the future.

“I think I have very good reason to have concerns in relation to how British politicians might set deals that are not in the best interests of everyone in The North,” she said.

A spokesman for the order declined to comment ahead of the parade.

The Commission said it concluded that a “restriction on the route beyond Drumcree Parish Church remains necessary, proportionate and fair in respect of this parade.”

“This decision reflects the potential impacts on community relations not only in the immediate vicinity of Portadown but throughout Northern Ireland,” it said.

Meanwhile, thousands of Orangemen will today gather for the annual Rossnowlagh parade in Co Donegal.

Around 50 lodges from Donegal, Cavan, Leitrim, and Monaghan will take part.

Staged in Rossnowlagh since the 1990s, it is traditional to hold the parade in Donegal on the Saturday before the Twelfth to allow lodges in the Republic to also attend demonstrations in Northern Ireland.