THE annual Drumcree return parade faces its 14th ban on Sunday - via the Garvaghy Road “traditonal route” - with no resolution in sight to the impasse.
The Portadown District No 1 has reinforced its call for face-to-face talks with the Garvaghy Road Residents Association (GRRC) in their bid to march the direct route for their return parade to Carleton Street Orange Hall, but the residents have repeated that the issue is “a dead duck and it is time to move on”.
And the NI Parades Commission, which has been accused of not doing enough to help settle the issue, this week insisted its officers had met with over 100 community and political people, including the Orangemen and the GRRC, over the past year to try and effect a resolution.
However, Mr Darryl Hewitt, District Master of Portadown LOL No 1, is far from convinced that the commission is doing enough. He claimed, “The commission is supposed to be a catalyst in effecting a resolution, but they have failed to set up the face-to-face talks - without preconditions - that we have asked for.
“The commission has also made great play of the fact that they tried to resolve the north Belfast parading impasse by calling in Lord Alderdice. We also asked for such an accommodation, but that has been denied us.”
However, the commission has reiterated it is doing its best to effect an agreement. In its determination banning the return padade it states, “We have continued to meet with the Portadown District and the GRRC and listened to their views. There continues, however, to be no agreement on the basis for discussion.”
The Orangemen’s view is that it is a simply an issue of the return parade, but the GRRC wants issues like the Parkmount Arch, the Junior Orange parade in May and other community matters in the mix.
GRRC chairman Mr Joe Duffy insisted that, since the parade was “rightly banned, the people of the area have lived in peace”.
He added, “It truly is a dead duck as far as we are concerned. It has no place in a nationalist area and it’s time to forget it and move on. We have met with the commission during the past few weeks, but we are happy with the status quo.”
The commission pointed out that, in the absence of agreement, there was a real possibility of damaging community relations in Portadown, but the situation remains exactly the same since the violence of the late 1990s ceased at Drumcree, and especially in the past five years with the Orangemen changing tack and calling for the face-to-face talks they refused prior to then.
The outward parade leaves from Carleton Street at 10.15am for 11.30 service at Drumcree.
The Orangemen will leave the church at around 1pm and attempt the “traditional return route”. They will be stopped by the PSNI at Drumcree Bridge where a protest and religious service will be held.
Meanwhile, the Portadown District’s evening service - at Seagoe Parish Church - will face no such restrictions, leaving from Edenderry Orange Hall for 7pm service, after which they returned parade will proceed unhindered.