Belfast Telegraph

Orange Order calls on Bradley to start talks as Drumcree stand-off marks 20 years

By Lisa Smyth

The Orange Order has called on the Secretary of State to act to break the 20-year deadlock over the contentious Drumcree parade.

Speaking at yesterday's annual parade and church service, Portadown district master Darryl Hewitt claimed the ongoing situation was a "grave injustice inflicted upon" Orange Order members.

Check out pictures from last year's marches: Belfast - Annalong - Beragh - Cloughmills - Ballymena - Cookstown - Lisbellaw- Hillsborough Bangor - Kilrea - Ballynahinch - Coleraine - Cullybackey - Clogher Richhill - Newtownabbey - Broughshane - Banbridge Ardoyne

He vowed that the Order will continue in its efforts to complete the traditional route from Drumcree Parish Church back to the starting point in Carleton Street in Portadown.

"It is incredible to think that 20 years have passed since our late district master Harold Gracey said that we would remain at this place until our civil and religious liberties had been restored," he said.

"We have done so, not out of any feeling of superiority or of massaging egos, but simply because it is the right thing to do whenever we have a grave injustice inflicted upon us.

"I would once again publicly underline our commitment to a fair and equitable solution to this matter.

"I would therefore urge the Secretary of State Karen Bradley to convene urgent and meaningful discussions between all interested parties in this dispute without delay."

The Parades Commission has banned Orangemen from parading along the predominantly nationalist Garvaghy Road since 1998.

Every Sunday members from the district hold a protest against the decision.

Repeating criticism of the Parades Commission on its ongoing position on the matter, Mr Hewitt continued: "Yet again the Parades Commission has issued a determination for this parade. Once again it is an emphatic 'no'.

"Hardly surprising from the non-Parades Commission.

"Indeed, we discovered this week that we are not registered with the Commission as interested parties to this dispute, so we were not invited to make representations regarding this parade.

"Week after week, and in particular around this time of year, they issue determinations which impact on the PUL community.

"It is time for our politicians to stand up and be counted and remind Government that this issue will not be going away."

He also responded to a statement from the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition, which said that "nationalists in Portadown have repeatedly declared their willingness to accept the alternative, less contentious route along Corcrain Road/Dungannon Road".

Mr Hewitt said: "Whilst its uncompromising tone is to be expected, it is nonetheless a surprising occurrence given their definitive silence of recent years."

Belfast Telegraph

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