Orange plan religious service in public park
PORTADOWN Orangemen have made a controversial application to hold a religious service at the People’s Park on the night of the town’s Mini-Twelfth in June, with up to 1,000 planning to attend.
The council’s leisure committee was due to consider the application last night (Thursday). And with the committee numbers 7-6 in favour of the unionists, the recommendation was almost certainly an approval.
The issue will then be passed to the April monthly meeting, and again the ratio of councillors is weighed towards the unionists, with nine DUP, six UUP, eight SF, two SDLP and one Alliance. So it is likely to go through, whatever way the sole Alliance member Conrad Dixon votes.
None of the 13 members on the committee was willing to comment on the run-up to last night’s meeting, claiming that all committee matters “are what it says - in committee”.
However, Portadown Orange District Master Darryl Hewitt confirmed the application, adding it was “perfectly reasonable and well within the ethos of the council’s policy”.
He added, “Around £7m is being spent to upgrade the park, with £6.4m coming from Europe and the rest from the ratepayers, on the strict proviso that it will be shared space, which it certainly hasn’t been over the past 40 years or so. It has been almost exclusively the preserve of the nationalist community of Portadown, and when the council passed the plan last year, every party supported the shared space move, especially Sinn Fein who have two councillors in the area.
“The unionists also voted for the proposal, again on the strict understanding that it would become a shared space.
The service issue will a test of the sincerity of all the councillors.”
He added that there would be no question of applying for a parade to the park on the night of the Mini-Twelfth, which is scheduled for the second Saturday in June, but that everyone attending the service would make their own way to the park “as private citizens”, and then proceed to the starting point for the main parade in the town centre area. It is understood that no collarettes will be worn on the way to the park or on the way back.
“It’s called ‘The People’s Park’ by the councillors, so let them prove it and support all the people of the area using it,” said Mr Hewitt. “Everyone is welcome to attend the service.”
The Portadown Times approached republican, nationalist and unionist members of the council, but none were willing to comment before last night’s meeting of the leisure services committee.
The committee consists of - chairman, Ronnie Harkness (UUP); vice-chairman, Noel McGeown (SF): Meta Crozier (UUP); Stephen Moutray (DUP); Alan Carson (DUP); Darryn Causby (DUP); Conrad Dixon (Alliance); Paul Duffy (SF); Declan McAlinden (SDLP); Tommy O’Connor (SF); Mairead O’Dowd (SF); Robert Smith (DUP); and Kenneth Twyble (UUP).
No council members were available for comment, but former Mayor Dolores Kelly MLA said that, in view of various flag protests and controversies over St Patrick’s Day, now was not the time to plan such an event in the park. She added, “Of course, we want to see the park a shared space, and events like this being possible in the future. But the Orange Order should think again, discuss these matters with the local community - especially the Friends of the Park Group - and let things settle.
“And they should become involved in the actual development of the park. This is a significant investment in Portadown and nothing should be done to place it in jeopardy. I do hope that wise counsel wins through and that the park can be open to all sections of the community - just as is the case in Lurgan.”
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Weather for Portadown
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 9 mph
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