The determination over ‘Drumcree Sunday’, July 6, is due out today (Friday). And the verdict from the NI Parades Commission will almost certainly be the same as the last 16 years - banning the return march from the Garvaghy Road.
Portadown LOL 1 District Master Darryl Hewitt said, “We’re not holding our breath. We have applied for the traditional return route every Sunday since we were denied our civil rights in July 1998, and whatever move we make to the commission falls on stony ground.”
It emerged last night that the commission “forgot” to summon the Portadown District to the usual pre-Drumcree discussion meetings. And by the time the District contacted them, it was too late to have the get-together. “There’s no point anyway,” said Mr Hewitt. “We know what the answer will be from this biased, incompetent commission.”
A determined group of Orangemen makes the downhill march from Drumcree Parish Church every Sunday, and is stopped each time at the bottom of the hill at police lines where a protest is staged. The Sunday ritual has been re-enacted around 900 times since the ban was invoked.
The original 1998 ban was followed by scenes of violence that hit the world headlines, with a series of swings and roundabouts since then. Initially, the Garvaghy Road Residents’ Coalition (GRRC) asked for cross-table talks with the Orangemen, which were refused.
But in recent years, the Orange Order has sought those talks, with the GRRC refusing, with the quote, “The issue is a dead duck. It has been settled and we aren’t interested in negotiating away our position.”
Mr Hewitt has criticised the “inaction” of the Parades Commission, stating that he has made several approaches, “but invariably they don’t have the courtesy to come back to us”. He added, “They seem to be putting all their energy to resolving the Twaddell Avenue situation in Belfast and we are forgotten.
“Senior officers will meet when the current marching season is over and try and concentrate the minds of the commission. But the commission must at least try and resolve it.”
A spokesperson for the commission said that they had been extremely busy over the past few weeks with various problems and that they were meeting five days this week.