Republican News · Thursday 23 July 1998

[An Phoblacht]

Time for direct dialogue

Proximity talks involving representatives of the Garvaghy Road residents and the Orange Order in Portadown broke down on Tuesday 21 July without success.

Progress in the talks was made impossible by the refusal of the Orange Order to countenance entering the same room to talk, even indirectly through an independent chairperson, with members of the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition.

A chance for progress has once again foundered on the rocks of Orange bigotry. A refusal to see Catholics or nationalists as equal citizens lies at the heart of the insistence of Orange representatives that they have no obligation to talk to their neigbours in order to tackle issues of mutual concern.

Proposals made by the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition to the British government and the Orange Order included the establishment of a civic forum to address the social, economic, cultural and political divisions in Portadown and the establishment of fully-funded programmes which would tackle social and economic neglect and discrimination.

These proposals were not matched by the Orange Order. Instead it doggedly insisted on securing a march down the Garvaghy Road this year and sought absolute guarantees in relation to marches in future years.

As the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition pointed out this week the real conflict at Drumcree this year has been between the Orange Order and the British government. The British government stated that it would uphold the ruling of the Parades Commission. Despite this the residents entered proximity talks in good faith and stated their open minded approach in reference to future years. They got short shrift from the Orange Order who showed a total inability to get involved in serious dialogue.

The recent Orange rally in Portadown heard local District Master Harold Gracey inform supporters that the Orange Order no longer needed thousands of Orangemen on the hill at Drumcree. He added that the battle would be fought in the towns and villages across the Six Counties. Increasingly the focus is shifting to Derry where the Apprentice Boys are insisting on marching the full length of the city walls depite objections from nationalist residents and the disruption and violence the march has caused in recent years.

A civic forum met in Derry on Wednesday night. It is attended by Apprentice Boys and members of the Bogside Residents' Committee but the Apprentice Boys have continued to insist there will be no direct dialogue. Nevertheless, direct dialogue between nationalist residents and the loyal orders and the acceptance of equality of treatement between the various traditions in Ireland are the only realistic way forward in the marches issue.

Contents Page for this Issue
Reply to: Republican News