Portadown Apprentice Boys of Derry (ABOD) have lodged an appeal against the Parades Commission decision to turn down the application for a change of route for tomorrow’s ‘Derry Day’ march.
But the area’s most senior Apprentice Boy, Billy McClean, insisted that whatever happens, the organisation will adhere to the law, “and stick to the legal route”.
Usually, the Portadown’s four clubs march down the town centre, from Carleton Street to the buses at Edenderry taking them to Londonderry. This year, though, they had applied to take a detour via Woodhouse Street, Park Road and Castle Street.
Initially, the police had designated the ‘new’ route as not contentious, but the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition (GRRC) spotted what they believed was a wrong decision. The PSNI then deemed it “contentious” – claiming the original decision was “an administrative error” – and the commission turned the new route application down.
Kyle Moore, secretary of the Baker Club – who made the application – said that the form had been sent to the PSNI, “well within the time limit and with every last detail”. He added, “We are making overtures to the European Commission and have lodged an appeal against the commission’s determination.”
Billy McClean, an Apprentice Boy for over 50 years and the Mid Ulster representative on ABOD general committee said that the commission decision was “totally flawed and we are contesting it”. He added, “The route is far from contentious. Woodhouse Street is a business thoroughfare, Park Road – with Catholic, foreign national and Protestant residents – is a shared space. And nobody lives in Castle Street.
“The route doesn’t touch Garvaghy Road, so it’s no business whatever of the GRRC, although we are willing to sit down and talk with them.”
The GRRC has welcomed the decision “to confine the Apprentice Boys parade to its normal route through the town centre.” They added they were willing to talk with the ABOD.
A spokesperson said, “There is no precedent or rational justification for the ABOD to parade along the route applied for. Many local people viewed this application as a deliberate attempt to stir up tensions.
“The GRRC’s legal representative has formally written to the PSNI Chief Constable’s office seeking an investigation and explanation as to why Portadown PSNI originally classified this proposed parade along Park Road as non-contentious. We do not believe that this issue, which could have had quite serious repercussions, can simply be dismissed as a mere ‘administrative error’.”