WITH just nine days to go to ‘Drumcree Sunday’, there have been no moves to try and resolve the impasse. The return parade via the Garvaghy Road is almost certain to be banned again - the 14th ban since the last march in 1998.
None of the three sides in the dispute - the Portadown Orange District No 1, the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition (GRRC) and the NI Parades Commission - have changed their stance on the issue.
The District has repeated its call for “talks without preconditions”, the GRRC continues to refuse talks, and the commission insists it’s up to the two sides to resolve it.
Darryl Hewitt, District Master of Portadown, said, “We have read the latest statement from the Parades Commission chairman Peter Osborne that they continue to promote local dialogue and engagement as a means of reaching accommodation in contentious parades. But this is nonsense. We have made overture after overture and the commission has turned a deaf ear. We have no confidence in Peter Osborne. His latest statement is from the realms of fantasy and we wonder what planet he’s living on.
“All we want are face-to-face talks with the GRRC and they are not interested. The commission makes great play of the Alderdice initiative in north Belfast. We called for a similar initiative in Portadown and have been ignored. The commission is listening to the GRRC, who are totally intransigent.
“When we refused talks up until five years ago - which the GRRC said they wanted - we were demonised by the commission, There’s one rule for the GRRC and another for us.”
However, Joe Duffy, chairman of the GRRC, repeated his claim that the issue was “a dead duck and it’s time to move on”. He added, “The people of Garvaghy Road have lived in peace since the commission rightly banned the return parade. It has no right to be here. We met the commission about six weeks ago and nothing new emerged. It’s time to forget it.
“We suffered from the terrible violence of the first few Drumcrees and the Orangemen sealed their own fate. We just want to live in peace.”
In his statement, commission chairman Mr Osborne said, “I believe there is now a better understanding, particularly among parade organisers, local community and political leaders, about the impact that conflict around parading can have on the lives of the people who parade or who are affected by a parade.
“The commission continues to promote local dialogue and engagement as a means of reaching accommodation on contentious parades, and we have taken a flexible and innovative approach where required, as demonstrated by the initiative we started in north Belfast, led by Lord Alderdice.”
The prospects for Sunday July 8 are the usual peaceful parade out to Drumcree, the return parade being stopped at the foot of Drumcree Hill, and the usual protest, followed by a religious service.