Portadown Orangemen have thrown their bowler hats into the ring for inclusion in the forthcoming talks with American diplomat Richard Haass as moves intensify for a solution to Northern Ireland’s contestious parades.
With the parades commission, the Orange Order and the local residents groups in North Belfast up for talks, a spokesman for the Portadown District said, “In that case, we must be front of the queue for Mr Haass’s expertise”
The Portadown move comes after Belfast Grand Chaplain Rev Mervyn Gibson was asked whether a weekly protest at the Ardoyne would become bogged down “like the Drumcree dispute” He replied: “The Drumcree march is banned from a short arterial route, but every district, county and lodge will work out what best and how we move the situation forward.”
The Portadown spokesman said, “This smacks of one rule for Belfast and one for the rest of Northern Ireland. Drumcree has created the template, and Belfast is much the same. It seems that the commission is doing all it can to facilitate talks in Belfast, but it has done precious little in Portadown, with the GRRC refusing to speak to us. We were the first district to indicate we would talk to the commission and residents.
“Belfast isn’t ruling out anything. We want to be in on the act - especially in the talks with Richard Haass. Goodness knows, we’ve waited long enough for some movement.”
The parades commission has said all along that it favours face-to-face talks, but that it cannot force the two sides together.
And the GRRC’s attitude remains that the issue “was solved years ago and is a dead duck”.