Portadown tense as loyalists plan mayhem
The news came as no surprise. On Wednesday, 14 June, the Orange Order confirmed it would continue to refuse meeting the Parades Commission. This move comes only days after the Order confirmed that it would wage a major campaign of disruption in early July in Portadown.
The Order kicked off by lodging an application with the Parades Commission for the main Drumcree march to take place on Sunday 2 July instead of 9 July, as originally planned. A few days later, it was confirmed that, in a move aimed at coercing the British government and the Parades Commission into permitting an Orange march down the Garvaghy Road, the Order was lodging applications to parade every day until 9 July.
Senior Orange men were quoted saying that in effect there would be two episodes of Drumcree this year.
The sectarian organisation and loyalist supporters are planning ten days of disruption and mayhem in the Portadown area and tensions are growing rapidly.
In recent weeks, there have been a series of articles in British and Irish newspapers suggesting that the UDA's notorious Johnny Adair has thrown his support behind the Portadown Orangemen. Such sinister news is ringing alarm bells amongst Portadown nationalists and comes against the backdrop of a strengthening of links between the Loyalist Volunteer Force and the UDA/UFF, led by Adair.
A series of sectarian attacks have also sharpened fears of more violence during the summer. It has emerged that a fire in the porch of St. John's chapel on the Garvaghy Road was sectarian. A similar fire broke out at St. Malaghy's church in the Ormeau Road area of Belfast. The idea that both attacks were ``coincidences'' was ruled out, as both Ormeau and Garvaghy Road residents are demanding the rerouting of Loyal Order parades.
After a so-called mini-Twelfth parade in Portadown town centre on Saturday, a Catholic taxi driver was attacked by upwards of 20 loyalists as he drove along the Corcrain Road in Portadown.
The night after, cars and buses carrying GAA fans home from the Ulster Football Championship match were also attacked. The roadway was blocked by number of obstructions, forcing the cars and buses to slow down. Loyalists then attacked the vehicles with missiles.
Windows in a numbers of vehicles were smashed and passengers showered with broken glass. One minibus carried 16 passengers, many of them young children had its windscreen smashed and its driver struck by a missile. Luckily, he managed to maintain control of the vehicle, averting a serious accident.
Meanwhile, Upper Bann Assembly member Dara O Hagan has slammed the Parades Commission decision to allow an Orange march in Lurgan on June 17. ``This decision is completely incomprehensible,'' says Dara, ``this is a march which goes nowhere. The Orange Order march along William Street and then turn and come back down it again. The only possible reason for this can be to annoy nationalists.''
The decision followed a refusal by the Commission to meet local Sinn Fein representatives.