Republican News · Thursday 8 June 1999

[An Phoblacht]

South African lawyer to mediate as Garvaghy crisis looms


Brian Currin, the South African human rights lawyer and former judge, has agreed to hold `pre-mediation' talks with both the Garvaghy Road residents and Portadown Orangemen in a further attempt to head off another Orange Order-orchestrated stand-off at Drumcree church next month. Currin, who represented many of those giving evidence to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, is also the joint chairman of the Six-County Sentence Review Commission.

Residents' leader Breandán Mac Cionnaith told An Phoblacht that Secretary of State Peter Mandelson suggested the involvement of Currin some time ago to establish whether further negotiations between all the parties were likely to be more fruitful than previous efforts, which were run by Tony Blair's Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell and Security Minister Adam Ingram. The Prime Minister has already stated his wish to see an Orange march go down the Garvaghy Road this year, a statement which effectively disqualifies the British government from acting as mediators.

``This has been ongoing for some time,'' said Mac Cionnaith, ``and there is a need for another person - not someone from the British Government, who have their own agenda - to be involved. Brian Currin doesn't have any particular axe to grind.''

Currin has reportedly insisted on complete independence and to this end any talks will be funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a research charity, rather than by the British Government. His spokeman said earlier this week that he is ``distanced from all parties - and that includes any Government''. Currin had wanted to wait until Wednesday, 7 June, before making any formal announcement of his involvement but it seems likely that this latest initiative, which was revealed in The Sunday Times on 4 June, was leaked by the NIO in its increasing desperation about the possibility of serious disturbances by supporters of the Portadown Orangemen. Notorious loyalist Johnny Adair has already said that he will support any protest if permission to march is refused, a comment which raises the sinister possibility of wider UDA activity in the area.

Judge Currin's changes of success appear to be slim, particularly since the announcement by Portadown Orangemen that the lodge has applied for a permission to march on 2 July, not 9 July as originally envisaged, although the application for a march on the latter date does still stand. This is clearly an attempt to stretch the security forces to breaking point and gives Orange Order supporters almost two weeks to ``dig in'' before 12 July, rather than only four days, and create maximum disorder.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, 7 June, the Garvaghy Road residents' Coalition said that an arson attack at St John the Baptist Catholic Church on the Garvaghy Road was definitely malicious. Smoke and fire damage was caused to the entrance foyer. ``It's too early to say who was behind this attack, but we believe a sectarian motive should not be ruled out,'' said a residents' spokesperson.

Contents Page for this Issue
Reply to: Republican News