Drumcree: Brethren defy Parades Commission ruling by 11 minutes
"We do not intend leaving by the time an unelected quango has told us to leave by" vowed Portadown District Master Darryl Hewitt
Orange men broke a Parades Commission deadline on Sunday by remaining at Drumcree Parish Church beyond the 2.30pm deadline.
Following their annual parade past Drumcree Church in Portadown, Darryl Hewitt, Portadown District Master at Drumcree, called on Orange Order members to ignore a Parades Commission ruling to leave the area by 2.30pm.
Fourteen members marched back to the Garvaghy Road impasse - where the parade is blocked from going any further - at the time they were ordered to disperse.
They remained there until 2.41pm in a token protest at the Parades Commission.
The act of protest was carried out peacefully.
The Portadown Church was the scene of serious rioting every year in the late 1990s when Orange men were barred from walking along the Garvaghy Road to return to the parade's starting point at Carleton Street.
Portadown District LOL No 1 have maintained a protest at the church every Sunday since then.
The re routed church parade continues to take place every year on the Sunday before the Twelfth parades.
The parade is now also banned by the Parades Commission from the Obins Street area of Portadown and has been ordered to disperse from Drumcree Parish Church no later than 2.30pm.
However Portadown District Master Darryl Hewitt is set to call for brethren to remain at the church past the 2.30pm deadline.
"According to the determination we are to leave this place by 2.30pm today," he said.
"However, on behalf of myself and the District Officers, may I request that you remain with us here as we do not intend leaving by the time an unelected quango has told us to leave by.
"Here We Stand, We Can Do No Other."
The parade has not been able to finish along its traditional route since July 1998.
Mr Hewitt said district officers have been seeking to achieve a resolution over the past years, but without much success to date.
"We will not be walking away from this place and I can assure you that we will continue to work hard to achieve what we desire," he said.
"As you will have seen in recent press reports, we have not been ‘sitting on our laurels’ waiting for someone else to try to get this situation resolved.
"As I briefly mentioned last year I had written to the residents inviting them to talks with a senior Roman Catholic cleric as Chairman. The story was covered extensively by the local media and I do not intend to rehearse it all again today."
Mr Hewitt has challenged unionist politicians to "grasp the parading ‘nettle’ and come up with a much more equitable solution to parading disputes".
"The Parades Commission have once again shown their utter contempt for the Orange Institution in general – just look at some of the determinations they produce – and Portadown District in particular," he said.
"In fact when we last met representatives of the Parades Commission, one of them interjected in the discussion and stated that he had been on the Commission for three years and had yet to see or hear anything new coming out of Portadown.
"I ask you, how many people would expect a District Master, in particular, the District Master of Portadown to invite a Roman Catholic priest to chair talks?
"The Parades Commission are supposed to be about resolving parading disputes as well as encouraging dialogue – the current Commission are either unable or unwilling to accept they have any part to play. It was because of their inactivity that I embarked upon issuing an invitation directly to the GRRC."
Mr Hewitt revealed that the Parades Commission have urged his district to stop their weekly protest.
"Let me and all of you on this hill remind Anne Henderson and her colleagues – Portadown District will not be paying any attention to advice given by a discredited quango," he said.
"Furthermore, the Parades Commission had to issue two determinations for this parade – the first one, posted out to me about two weeks ago, stated that we were re-routed from the Garvaghy Road. They then had to issue a new determination a week later also re-routing us from Obins Street.
"Once again this clearly demonstrates the incompetence of the Parades Commission – they must go and go soon."
The senior Orange man has also appealed to the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition (GRRC) to respond to his letters and meet with him to find a resolution.
"However, we attempt to complete our parade each and every Sunday – a fact that most people in Northern Ireland are not aware of. This has been the case since July 1998 when our late District Master Wor Bro Harold Gracey said that we would remain on protest until our rights have been restored," he said.
"We have a faithful band of Brethren who attend the protest each and every week, including Brethren from other Districts. The thanks of Portadown District go to you Brethren for your faithfulness.
"Our resolve has not diminished over the weeks, months and indeed years.
"No-one should be in any doubt – Portadown District are in this for the long haul. We will not be deflected from seeking to achieve our objective."