Belfast Telegraph

Drumcree Orangemen ignore Parades Commission ruling

By Deborah McAleese

Senior Orangemen defied a Parades Commission ruling at Drumcree yesterday by refusing to disperse on time.

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.

The parade route has been a source of contention since 1997, when the parade passed along the now banned Garvaghy Road route.

Mr Hewitt said the resolve of Portadown District to complete their 1998 march has not diminished.

"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... Portadown District are in this for the long haul. We will not be deflected from seeking to achieve our objective," he said.

Mr Hewitt also said that the Parades Commission "must go and go soon."

"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.

"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."

Despite the organised breach of the Parades Commission's determination at Drumcree yesterday there was no sign of tension between Orangemen and police.

Six officers stood on the road to stop the Orangemen from progressing towards the banned route.

The marchers joked with police about attempting to run past them.

"If I run do you think you would catch me," one said to an officer. After their short protest they thanked the officers and left.

Although it was a peaceful march and protest around two dozen police officers were on standby nearby in the event of trouble.

The Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition (GRRC) accused the Orange Order of being "absurd" and "highly insensitive" over their demands to be allowed to complete the rerouted 1998 parade.

"Insistence upon completion of a re-routed march along Garvaghy Road from July 1998 also demonstrates complete disregard for the views of those who would be most directly affected - residents of the area and their families", GRRC said.

GRRC added that the re-routing of contentious marches away from the Garvaghy Road by the Parades Commission "has meant that our community - and the wider community - has enjoyed successive peaceful summers".

"An entire generation of our young people has grown up without having to experience the humiliation and fear, tension and violence, or the physical sieges of our community that accompanied those sectarian marches of the mid and late 1990s. Our community has moved on - Portadown District needs to do likewise", said GRRC.

Belfast Telegraph


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