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Unionists to press parades body over Drumcree logjam

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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com -  Annual Drumcree Orange Order parade in Portadown.  The parade is stopped outside Drumcree Church from going down the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road.  Orange men hand over a letter of protest to the police at the barrier outside the church.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Annual Drumcree Orange Order parade in Portadown. The parade is stopped outside Drumcree Church from going down the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road. Orange men hand over a letter of protest to the police at the barrier outside the church.

Orangemen gather at Drumcree church to mark 5,000 days since their parade was prevented from proceeding down the Garvaghy Road in July 1998

Orangemen gather at Drumcree church to mark 5,000 days since their parade was prevented from proceeding down the Garvaghy Road in July 1998

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com -  Annual Drumcree Orange Order parade in Portadown.  The parade is stopped outside Drumcree Church from going down the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road.  The parade makes its way to the barrier.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Annual Drumcree Orange Order parade in Portadown. The parade is stopped outside Drumcree Church from going down the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road. The parade makes its way to the barrier.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com -  Annual Drumcree Orange Order parade in Portadown.  The parade is stopped outside Drumcree Church from going down the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road.  Orange men pictured at the barrier with Drumcree Church in the background.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Annual Drumcree Orange Order parade in Portadown. The parade is stopped outside Drumcree Church from going down the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road. Orange men pictured at the barrier with Drumcree Church in the background.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com -  Annual Drumcree Orange Order parade in Portadown.  The parade is stopped outside Drumcree Church from going down the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road.  The parade makes its way to the barrier.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Annual Drumcree Orange Order parade in Portadown. The parade is stopped outside Drumcree Church from going down the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road. The parade makes its way to the barrier.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com -  Annual Drumcree Orange Order parade in Portadown.  The parade is stopped outside Drumcree Church from going down the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road.  Orange men pictured at the barrier with Drumcree Church in the background.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Annual Drumcree Orange Order parade in Portadown. The parade is stopped outside Drumcree Church from going down the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road. Orange men pictured at the barrier with Drumcree Church in the background.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com -  Annual Drumcree Orange Order parade in Portadown.  The parade is stopped outside Drumcree Church from going down the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road.  Orange men pictured at the barrier with Drumcree Church in the background.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Annual Drumcree Orange Order parade in Portadown. The parade is stopped outside Drumcree Church from going down the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road. Orange men pictured at the barrier with Drumcree Church in the background.

Unionist councillors in Craigavon are poised to press the Parades Commission for a plan to tackle the deadlocked Drumcree dispute.

It comes after Parades Commission attempts to resolve disputes in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast in talks headed by Lord Alderdice of the former Independent Monitoring Commission.

With just a month to go before the annual demonstration in Portadown, unionists are seeking a similar initiative to deal with the long-running logjam.

A council letter sent last month to the commission and seen by the Belfast Telegraph urges its chairman Peter Osborne to “instigate an initiative in Portadown to deal with the ongoing impasse that exists in relation to the Garvaghy Road”.

It added: “A similar project is under way in Belfast led by Lord Alderdice, and we believe that the same amount of effort should be afforded to the people of Portadown.”

The issue is due to be discussed at the council’s monthly meeting tonight. Ulster Unionist Colin McCusker said the commission should be urged to devise a timetable for an Ardoyne-type move — although it appears it would be too late to affect this year’s parade on July 8.

Predicting he will be backed by the DUP, Mr McCusker said: “I would hope they (the council) will ask for an indicative timescale as to when they will revert with a proposal.”

But Sinn Fein’s group leader on the council, Johnny McGibbon, said even the initial request to the commission did not have the support of his party or the SDLP.

Accusing the Ulster Unionists and DUP of “political posturing”, he said: “This is little more than a move in the ongoing electoral battle between the two main unionist parties which are trying to outdo each other ahead of any future elections.”

The comments came after Upper Bann MP David Simpson last week brought a delegation of Portadown Orange leaders to meet NIO Minister Hugo Swire.

Afterwards, the DUP’s Mr Simpson said: “I will continue to press for a proper resolution to this impasse.”

Parades Commission member Frances Nolan said forcing both sides to sit down and talk “would be acting beyond our remit”.

Background

Since 1998 the Orange Order has been banned from marching along the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown after its pre-Twelfth church demonstration. The parade from Drumcree Church of Ireland dates back 200 years. In the three years before the ban, attempts to stop the parade led to serious loyalist rioting across Northern Ireland. The Portadown lodge still holds a Sunday protest every week to highlight its grievance.

Belfast Telegraph