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Churches’ relations warm at Drumcree

The two parishes of Drumcree in Portadown — Catholic and Church of Ireland — are moving closer, courtesy of their clerics.

Fr Michael O’Dwyer and the Rev Gary Galway of the neighbouring parishes are joint chairmen of the town’s Churches Together organisation which embraces most of the main denominations in the area.

And while the ministers are still leaving it to others to sort out the Drumcree Orange march situation, they feel that cross-community relationships in Portadown are improving slowly but surely.

Fr O’Dwyer, who was robbed of £1,000 charity money at knifepoint in his parochial house earlier this week, is delighted at the personal support he received from his Church of Ireland neighbours throughout the town, including his fellow chairman.

He said: “I’m delighted to serve with Gary, and with other Protestant and Roman Catholic clergy on the group. They have been so sympathetic to me since the robbery, and we all notice a slow thawing of relationships in the town.

“Gary was a curate at St Mark’s in the centre of Portadown and is well respected in the area. It’s a delight working with him.”

Mr Galway said he had been involved in the Portadown Churches Together group — where seven churches are involved — and was pleased to serve as chairman with Fr O’Dwyer. “Our aim is to bring Christian people together in Portadown and we have a number of project going, including a Prayer Week.

“And as far as the July Orange service in Drumcree is concerned, I — like my predecessor John Pickering — will not close the doors of my church to anyone. I know John Pickering was placed under pressure for his stance, but I agreed with him and I will do the same.”

And an Orange source said: “We don’t think that the Rev Galway will be as closely involved in the Drumcree march situation as his predecessor John Pickering, but we see no problem with him taking the various Orange services or with the chairmanship. The Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition refusing to meet the Portadown District for face-to-face talks is the major obstacle as far as we are concerned.”

Mr Pickering, who retired last year, is writing a book about his experiences in Drumcree.

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