Republican News · Thursday 23 July 1998

[An Phoblacht]

Proximity talks break up

Orangemen insist on march

by Laura Friel

``The Orange Order succeeded in holding the entire process hostage,'' said Breandan MacCionnaith of the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition as proximity talks ended without agreement last Tuesday night, ``by insisting that any progress whatsoever was entirely and completely conditional upon securing a march on the Garvaghy Road this year''.

Despite the fact that the issue was primarily a conflict between the Orange Order and British government commitment to uphold the Parades Commission's decision to re route the Drumcree march, Garvaghy residents said they had entered into proximity talks ``to play our part in assisting the search for a long term solution to the marching issue'' but the Orange Order had not only insisted on marching on the Garvaghy Road this year but also ``demanded an unequivocal guarantee of parades in all future years''.

Describing the way forward as ``not through force but through dialogue,'' the residents expressed their disappointment at the failure of the Orange Order to engage ``constructively, positively and directly'' during the process. While the Garvaghy Coalition had hoped for a long term resolution through mutual respect and trust, ``by refusing to even consider entering a room with the GRRC and talking indirectly through an independent chairperson showed a complete lack of respect for the nationalist community''.

In detailed proposals presented to the British government and Orange Order, the residents' group hoped to ``secure the rights of all people of Portadown''. The proposals included the establishment of a civic forum to address divisions in the city by establishing social and economic programmes funded directly by the British government. ``These are basis resources which have been unfairly denied to the nationalist community over many years through structured discrimination,'' said MacCionnaith. ``In redressing those imbalances the British government would be honouring commitments made in the Good Friday Agreement.''

Leaving the talks, the facilitators, Roy Magee and Peter Quinn said they hoped to reconvene ``as soon as possible''. A delegation of Orangemen from Portadown left without comment.

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