The Orange Order yesterday [Wednesday] attempted to stage a march along part of the nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown.
The anti-Catholic organisation’s attempts to stage triumphalist, sectarian parades through the Catholic part of the town have continued in recent years despite opposition by the Garvaghy Road residents.
Its long-standing demands to be allowed to march the route regardless became associated with large-scale disturbances across the Six Counties throughout the late 1990s.
The Orangemen still refuse to discuss the parade route with local representatives, and their parades are consistently rerouted by the Parades Commission, which adjudiucates on parade disputes.
But members of the order are accused of entering part of the contested route on Wednesday night.
The nationalist Garvaghy Road Resident’s Coalition said more than 30 Orangemen walked from Drumcree church to the edge of the nationalist Ballyoran estate before stopping to block traffic.
“It was only as nationalist residents came from their homes that the PSNI arrived on the scene,” they said.
They said the PSNI had been aware that a march would be attempted following a ruling of the Parades Commission, blocking its advance on the Garvaghy Road.
“One is forced to conclude that, although being aware of the planned Orange protest march and the Parades Commission ruling in respect of the same, the PSNI deliberately choose to ignore both the Orange protest march and the restrictions placed upon it. The only explanation for this is that both the PSNI and the Orange Order had hoped to draw nationalist residents into physical confrontation.
“The Parades Commission, who have been made aware of other breaches of its determinations in respect of other loyal order parades in recent weeks in Portadown, must ask for a clear explanation as to why the PSNI choose to ignore or enforce a legally binding determination last night in Portadown.”
Sinn Féin Assembly member for the area John O’Dowd, who is minister for education in the Stormont Executive, condemned the Orangemen.
“The Portadown District assembled at Drumcree,” he said. “There was no PSNI presence at the church. The Orange Order seemed to take this as a signal to take part in an illegal parade down Garvaghy Road.”
Mr O’Down said tensions were high in the wake of the incident. The Sinn Féin representative said the Orange Order Grand Master Edward Stevenson should explain his organisation’s conduct.
“Let us now hear from Mr Stevenson, let him finally emerge into the media and tell the people what is going on with the Orange Order under his leadership,” he said.