‘Drumcree Sunday’ passed off peacefully in Portadown as has been the case for the past decade.
As the return Orange Order parade from Drumcree Church via the Garvaghy Road was stopped in its tracks at a PSNI barrier, its leaders said their “civil rights are being denied yet again”.
Half-a-mile away, Garvaghy Road Residents’ Coalition (GRRC) members insisted they would never agree to the return parade “nor will we agree to face-to-face talks”, as demanded by the Order.
The two-mile outward parade went without incident, past St John’s Catholic Church where GRRC members Breandan Mac Cionnaith and Joe Duffy — as well as local Sinn Fein council member Paul Duffy — were among the small group of observers.
Mr Mac Cionnaith quoted from the recent Church of Scotland row with the Order, which had accused the kirk of “failing the country morally”.
He added: “The kirk replied that the Order was out of touch and out of time, and as far as we are concerned, it is out of place on the Garvaghy Road.”
Joe Duffy said: “We won’t be talking to the Portadown District. The issue is a dead duck and we’ve moved on.”
At the barrier at the bottom of Drumcree Hill, deputy master David Jones said that the service the district had just attended at the Church of the Ascension was to commemorate the Battle of the Somme: “Where our ancestors fought for the very civil rights that are being denied us.”
In a fiery speech, district master Darryl Hewitt said the Parades Commission had “singularly failed to treat the two sides with equality”, and called for direct talks.
He added the district had asked for an ‘Alderdice’ type initiative as in north Belfast, “but I’m still waiting for a reply”.
Mr Hewitt insisted that the protest would continue “until our rights are restored — we hold a protest every Sunday and this will continue, we will not go away”.
The parade was attended by Upper Bann MP David Simpson, Health Minister Edwin Poots and Liverpool Orangeman Neil Miney, of UKIP, who claimed the ban was contrary to British justice.