Irish Republican News · July 2, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Drumcree showdown ruled out

Concerns that a sectarian march could still be forced through the nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown were resolved after the Protestant Orange Order dropped a legal challenge today.

A last-minute change-of-heart by the Parades Commission on the Orange Order’s notorious Drumcree march has been ruled out after the Orange Order decided not to launch a last minute legal challenge to the Parades Commission’s decision to again reroute this year’s Drumcree parade away from the nationalist enclave.

On Monday, the Parades Commission rejected a request by Orangemen to review its ruling preventing them marching down the Garvaghy Road on Sunday.

It was the first time a review sought by the Portadown lodge over the annual Drumcree march has been rejected by the commission.

On previous occasions, some reviews have gone right down to the wire, with decisions released on the eve of the parade.

A spokesman for the Parades Commission said last night: “The commission only reviews a decision if new evidence is presented. No new evidence has been presented.”

Mr Jones had voiced hope that the ruling would be overturned.

“Obviously we are disappointed,” he said yesterday.

“Our march on Sunday to the church and for the morning service will go ahead as normal. If we are denied walking along the Garvaghy Road, we will make our protest and we hope everything will pass off peacefully.

“That is our desire and what we are working towards.”

The Portadown Orangeman called on the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to disband the Parades Commission.

“We believe that the commission has bowed to threats from Sinn Féin, and is now effectively being driven by a Sinn Féin agenda. We are now calling on the Prime Minister to carry out a review of the commission with a view to having it scrapped.”

With no trouble at last year’s Drumcree march, security is expected to be scaled down even further than in previous years, but extra Crown force personnel have been put on stand-by.

Garvaghy Road residents spokesman Breandan MacCionnaith welcomed the latest development.

“There is a lot of relief around the area, especially in view of what happened with the review in relation to the Springfield Road march in west Belfast (which saw a ban overturned last week),” he said.

“Hopefully this Sunday will pass off without incident. Last year went off without incident and indeed Portadown has been relatively quiet in the last 12 months.

“There has been a number of sectarian incidents, but not to the high levels there would have been in previous years.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin Assembly member Mr Gerry Kelly called on Ian Paisley’s DUP to sit down with Sinn Féin to discuss contentious parades.

“The DUP are currently sitting on the North and West Parades Forum with three loyalist paramilitary groups. Let’s show political leadership by meeting on the parades issue. I would also urge the DUP to use their influence with the Orange Order to encourage them to enter into dialogue with nationalist residents’ groups.”

* An Orange Order parade through east Belfast, one of a number in the city last night, passed off quietly in the presence of a large group of nationalist protestors and a heavy deployment of British soldiers.

Residents from the Short Strand gathered outside their homes with banners of protest as the parade passed along the Albertbridge Road.

They were separated from the parade by a wall of British Army Landrovers, with British soldiers patrolling gaps between the vehicles.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News