Orangemen accuse Parades Commission of 'talking through its hat'

PORTADOWN Orangemen have accused the NI Parades Commission of being totally out of step with the Drumcree marching issue.

The row comes after the commission changed the wording of its determination for the coming Sunday - another refusal to allow the return parade to proceed through Garvaghy Road into the town centre.

The source said, "The commission has had the gall to say that the Garvaghy Road Residents' Coalition (GRRC) is not opposed to dialogue. The commission is talking through its hat. We have been asking for face-to-face dialogue since August 2007 - totally without preconditions and predetermination - so why hasn't the dialogue taken place?

"It's because the GRRC has been running away from dialogue, aided and abetted by the commission which has done precisely nothing to effect dialogue."

District Master Darryl Hewitt is refusing to comment on the change of wording, given that the Assembly's parades group – consisting of three DUP and three Sinn Fein MLAs – has completed its report.

But the Portadown Times understands that he has spoken to commission officers, accusing them of "total nonsense in this latest determination". The Orangemen have applied for the return parade every Sunday since it was banned in 1998 and they hold a protest at Drumcree every week.

Meanwhile, GRRC leader Breandan Mac Cionnaith has echoed the words of the coalition chairman Joe Duffy that the issue is a "dead duck and it's time to move on".

"That's the feeling throughout the area," he said. "And when you consider that the Orangemen still apply for the outward route via Obins Street every year, which has been barred since the mid-1980s, it shows their attitude. They have accepted the alternative outward route, so why not the alternative inward route?"

Next Sunday's determination from the commission states, "The commission remains fixed in its objective to encourage and facilitate dialogue, and does not believe that there has been a refusal to enter into dialogue by either party.

"Portadown District LOL No 1 has said since October 2007 that it is willing to enter into dialogue with no preconditions or pre-determined outcome. The GRRC has said that it is not opposed to dialogue but it does not believe that the issues to be discussed have been clarified sufficiently, particularly in respect of the scope for any discussions on the route and alternate routes.

"The GRRC has asked to meet the Commission to discuss several issues relating to its concerns and it is hoped this meeting will take place at the earliest opportunity."

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