This weekend’s ‘Drumcree Sunday’ is set to follow the same pattern of the recent peaceful protests that have marked the annual Orange service – with the caveat that District Master Darryl Hewitt is calling for the ‘heads’ of the entire Parades Commission.
Mr Hewitt has insisted that the new commission is “not fit for purpose, having admitted it ‘forgot’ to call the customary pre-Drumcree meeting with the Portadown Orange District to at least discuss the issue”.
He added, “This new commission is clueless. When we contacted them about this year’s Drumcree and for the customary pre-event meeting, they said they had forgotten. But we won’t be seeking any meeting with them. It’s a waste of time. The commission, far from helping with shared space, is creating ‘orange and green’ areas in Northern Ireland.”
The determination for Sunday is the same as it has been every Sunday since the Portadown District was barred in 1998 from returning back to Carleton Street Orange Hall via the Garvaghy Road.
Mr Hewitt added, “When the marching season is over, we will be in touch with the Secretary of State to stand down the current commission and replace them with people of substance who at least know something about the situation.”
A spokesperson for the commission said they did not react to calls for the group to stand down – and the spokesperson refused to comment any further over last week’s reversal of the Parkmount Lodge permission to hold a march and dedication ceremony at the arch at Victoria Terrace on Saturday night.
The commission had allowed the parade but after representations from the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition (GRRC), the decision was reversed.
The commission spokesperson said, “Following a review of its determination, the commission has amended its original determination. This followed the receipt of fresh information, including representation on behalf of communities living in the immediate vicinity of the parade.”
In the event, the members of Parkmount Lodge gathered peacefully at Shillington car park for which they were commended by Rev Ken Robinson, who said, “I was at Shillington’s car park on Saturday night and was very impressed with the courage and dignity displayed by the local Orange leadership.
“They took what was a very difficult decision to call off the parade, but it was the right decision and I commend them for it. I hope that in the days and weeks to come that common sense and respect will flow from all sides so that the marching season passes off peacefully.”
In a statement, Parkmount Arch Committee accused the Parades Commission of increasing tensions in the area due to its “backtrack”.
“Some may see this as a climb-down. We see it as only the start of our fight to ensure that the Parkmount Arch is dedicated correctly,” the statement added. “The arch committee is committed to getting the answers to our questions and will use every avenue open to us in this mission.”
The SDLP’s Dolores Kelly said, “As far as the GRRC is concerned, the Drumcree issue is settled.” She said applications like last year’s ‘Orange Service in the Park’, the Apprentice Boys’ efforts to parade along Park Road and the march to the arch were “stunts by the loyal orders”.