Pickering condemns Drumcree violence
BY LAURA FRIEL
Drumcree rector Reverend John Pickering has finally distanced himself from the violence which accompanied Orange Order protests in Portadown this summer. A joint statement from his select vestry and the rector condemned ``unruly elements who exploited a legitimate peaceful protest''.
The Church of Ireland has come under increasing criticism for its apparent toleration of Orange Order antics within their church grounds in Drumcree. Speaking of the moral responsibility of the rector and select vestry, the statement continued: ``We totally disassociate the parish from the violent scenes which have been orchestrated by certain so-called supporters of the legitimate protest of the Order, the violence witnessed across the province in July and the suffering caused to so many innocent people.''
Garvaghy Road Residents' spokesperson Breandan Mac Cionnaith criticised the Church of Ireland minister for failing to disassociate himself from the ongoing protest. ``As long as the protest is maintained at Drumcree and as long as the Orange Order are made welcome, there is still potential for further violence,'' he said. Upper Bann Sinn Féin Assembly member Dara O Hagan accused Reverend Pickering of ``shedding crocodile tears. For the Reverend Pickering to now distance himself from their protests at Drumcree is completely ridiculous.
``His blaming of unruly elements who exploited legitimate peaceful protest is without foundation. The leadership of the Orange Order, particularly in Portadown, on numerous occasions welcomed the support of loyalist paramilitaries and made inflammatory speeches calling for loyalists to take action.''