Orangemen seek justice in Drumcree march issue

PORTADOWN Orangemen have challenged the NI Parades Commission to allow the Drumcree march through Garvaghy Road "in the interests of justice and to recognise our positive attitude".

The call came after this week's annual meeting when Portadown District Master Darryl Hewitt was re-elected along with his fellow officers.

After the meeting at Carleton Street Orange Hall, Mr Hewitt accused the commission and the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition (GRRC) of "hiding from reality and failing to recognise how far the Orange Order has moved in this controversy".

The District applies every Sunday for the march to be allowed and has challenged the commission to permit the march in the near future "and stop parroting the same reasons for banning it, in the light of our changed attitude".

Mr Hewitt added, "A group of us met the commission a fortnight ago. Commission officers told us they could not pin the residents down to a face-to-face meeting with Portadown District No 1.

"The residents called consistently for such meeting during the years that the Order refused to meet them, and that was used as the main reason for banning the return parade from Drumcree via the Garvaghy Road.

"We are calling for the same principles to apply now, and for the determination to favour the Orangemen, with the residents refusing face-to-face talks.

"We are still applying for the return march every Sunday, we are refused every time as a matter of course, and we believe the commission should reverse that decision any Sunday now.

"At least it would flush the residents from their laissez-faire attitude. No doubt they'll go straight to the courts, but at least it might precipitate talks and get things moving. As things stand, the commission and the residents don't want to know about talks."

But Joe Duffy from the GRRC said, "There's more to this than the Drumcree march, and the Orange District knows it, and it will need to come in from outer space.

"There's the issue of the Junior Orange parade each May, bonfires and other social issues affecting not only the Garvaghy Road, but also areas like Edgarstown. It isn't simply a matter of going into a room and talking about Drumcree."

A spokesman for the commission said that determined moves were being made to bring the two sides together.

He added, "Since taking up their posts, the commission members have been focussed on moving forward the situation at Drumcree. Perhaps more than any other, the Drumcree situation represents the need to build trust between communities that have for so long distrusted each other.

"The process of building that trust is time consuming and the Parades Commission recognises and shares the frustrations of those who are working hard to move the process forward. We are confident that while it may be slow, real progress is being made."

Meanwhile, the full list of officers at the Portadown annual meeting was as follows -

District Master, Darryl Hewitt; Deputy DM, Nigel Dawson; secretary, David Jones; treasurer, John Carrick; chaplains, Cecil Allen, George Robinson, Sandy Hewitt, David Graham.