‘Drumcree protests over if we walk Garvaghy Road once more’

PACEMAKER BELFAST  07/12/2014'DRUMCREE PROTEST'Portadown Orangemen mark 6,000 days of their protest at Drumcree on sunday''Members of Portadown District have been prevented from parading from Drumcree Church to Carleton Street Orange hall in the town centre since the traditional return procession was banned by the Parades Commisson in July 1998.''Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 07/12/2014'DRUMCREE PROTEST'Portadown Orangemen mark 6,000 days of their protest at Drumcree on sunday''Members of Portadown District have been prevented from parading from Drumcree Church to Carleton Street Orange hall in the town centre since the traditional return procession was banned by the Parades Commisson in July 1998.''Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press

The long-running dispute over the Drumcree parade will be “over for good” if the march is allowed to proceed one more time down Garvaghy Road.

A well-placed Orange source told the Portadown Times that Portadown District No 1 would draw a line under the dispute and not apply in future years to march back into Portadown via the contentious route.

It is the latest move in a dispute that started in world-headline violence in 1998, and has moved into an era where the weekly protest at The Hill is barely noticed.

Sunday saw an increase in interest with the 6,000-day milestone passed, but overall attention has been minimal in recent years.

The source said, “We have lodged a protest every Sunday since we were banned from returning via the traditional route.

“Those protests will continue until the Parade Commission shows an interest and lets us complete the walk in to Portadown.

“But there is a realisation that such a parade would be the end of the matter.”

He added, “We have done our utmost to set up initial talks with the GRRC (Garvaghy Road Residents’ Coalition).

“But they are showing no interest in trying to improve community relations in the town – especially at a time when £6m is being spent on the public park off the Garvaghy Road.

“Their elected political representatives are trying to convince the town’s Protestant population that the park will be a shared space, but we can’t even march past it.

“Most people from the Protestant community haven’t set foot in the park for 40 years. We are a divided town and a solution to Drumcree would be a step in the right direction.”

It is also understood that moves are currently being made to set up a round-table discussion between both sides, and District Master Darryl Hewitt alluded to this during his speech on Sunday. But he refused to comment on the ‘final parade’ issue, simply saying that the District had been doing its utmost since October 2006 to effect talks.

“The GRRC has been totally negative and the Parades Commission inaction is encouraging them, even though the stated policy of the commission is to reward those who try to resolve these disputes,” Mr Hewitt added.

The GRRC replied that the Orange protests had become a non-event. Spokesman Breandan Mac Cionnaith simply said it was time to move on. “It doesn’t register in Garvaghy Road anymore,” he added.

The Parades Commission said disputes were best resolved at local level “with numerous interventions having taken place over

Drumcree”.

There have been overtures from Orangemen to persuade unionist councillors involved in the park facelift to take up their case for round-table talks to start.