Death of Harold Gracey
Death of Harold Gracey

Harold Gracey, the Portadown Orange leader during the Drumcree disputes, has died following a long illness.

Gracey defiantly opposed decisions for the past number of years to reroute summer parades by the Protestant Orange Order away from the nationalist Garvaghy Road

Major confrontations took place in the mid '90s when nationalists staged sit-down protests against what they view coat-trailing parades through their community.

The Orange Order has always refused to engage directy with the local nationalist community on the issue, and heavy loyalist violence amid a massive military deployment has been a frequent outcome in years past.

Rioting and sectarian violence elsewhere in the Six Counties was also provoked by the annual stand-off.

In one notorious incident three young Catholic boys, Jason, Mark and Richard Quinn, died when their home in Ballymoney, County Antrim, was petrol-bombed.

Gracey will be best remembered for his encamped protest on Drumcree Hill and his bible-thumping denunciations at the barricade blocking the route onto the Garvaghy Road.

Mr Gracey sparked controversy during the 2000 dispute when he said he would not condemn any violence linked to Drumcree protests.

Recent years, however, has seen relatively peaceful protests by Orangemen and their loyalist protestors at the decision to reroute the parade.

Fellow Portadown Orangeman David Jones hailed Mr Gracey as a ``true lifelong Orangeman''.

``Harold made a massive contribution to the Orange Order and particularly the Portadown District,'' he said.

Mr Gracey's reported last request was that his funeral cortege would pass down Garvaghy Road, but Mr Jones said there were no plans to do so.

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