- The Marching Season in the Six Northeastern Counties of
Ireland spans from April through to December. The majority of
these marches are organised by what are termed the Loyal
Orders, namely the Orange Order, the Apprentice Boys and the
Royal Black Preceptory.
- In Portadown approximately 40 parades are organised each year
by the above groups as well as by other Loyalists groupings,
With one exception, that of the return leg of the Drumcree
parade along the Drumcree and Garvaghy Roads, all these marches
take place in the town centre or other areas of the town which
are predominantly Protestant/Unionist. Although all of these
marches cause major inconvenience and annoyance, it is only the
return leg of the Orange Order’s Drumcree parade along the
Drumcree and Garvaghy Roads which Catholic/Nationalists
- The Loyal Orders named above are secret societies from which
Catholics are excluded. When a person becomes a member of any of
the Loyal Orders, he must swear he has no blood or marital
connection with any member of the Catholic faith. The Loyal
Orders are exclusively Protestant, Unionist and pro- British
- A number of marches by these organisations go through areas
which are predominantly Catholic/Nationalist, such as the
Garvaghy Road in Portadown and the Ormeau Road in Belfast. Such
marches are considered to be akin to Ku Klux Klan marches
through coloured communities in the U.S. or marches by neo-Nazi
organisations through Jewish or other ethnic communities in
- In these disputed areas, the Loyal Orders refuse to meet with
residents’ groups to discuss rerouting parades and marches away
from contentious and controversial routes.
- The local Member Of Parliament is David Trimble, the leader
of the Ulster Unionist Party, who is a member of the Orange
Order. From the time he was elected in 1990 until May 1999, Mr
Trimble refused to meet with the Garvaghy Road Residents’
Coalition (his own constituents). After a visit to the U.S.,
where over 100 members of Congress presented him with a letter
that strongly urged him to talk with his constituents, he
finally attended two short meetings with the Garvaghy Road
residents. During those years he did not speak with
nationalist residents, he had no such problems meeting with
known Loyalist paramilitary members, such as Billy Wright, also
known as King Rat, at Drumcree in July 1997. Wright was the
leader of a Loyalist death squad based in the Portadown area
which has been responsible for the murders of over 150 Catholics
since 1970. Harold Gracey, leader of the Orange Order in
Portadown, frequently publicly appeared in Wright’s company.
For further details of David Trimble’s links with Wright and
others, read “The Committee” by Sean McPhilemy, published by
- As is the case in all disputed areas, an alternative route
which totally avoids the Garvaghy Road area is available to the
Orange Order. This alternative route in Portadown (along the
Corcrain and Dungannon Roads) is actually the route taken by
the Orange Order on their way TO Drumcree.
- The Loyal Orders allege that residents groups are not
representative of local communities. In Portadown, the
Catholic/Nationalist population is represented by the Garvaghy
Road Residents’ Coalition - an umbrella group whose membership
is drawn from local community-based organisations.
- Portadown is a predominantly Unionist/Protestant town in
County Armagh with a total population of approximately 28,00O.
The minority Catholic/Nationalist population of the town is
approximately 6,000. Almost all the CathoIic/Nationalist
population live in housing estates along the Garvaghy Road or
the smaller Obins Street area in the north-western corner of
the town. (See Map) Many of those living there were forcibly
evicted from their homes in other parts of the town by
pro-British Loyalist paramilitaries.
- A survey carried out in the Garvaghy Road area by the
Independent Review of Parades and Marches in 1996 (a British
Government agency) found that 93% of the local Catholic
community in Portadown were sympathetic to the concerns
expressed by the Residents Coalition.
- 97% of all those questioned in that Survey, and 99% of
Catholics, said that parade organisers should take into account
demographic and other changes which have occurred in the
religious mix of an area.
- When asked if a parade should go through an area where the
religious balance is 10% (or less) Protestant and 90% (or more)
Catholic - similar to the make-up of the Garvaghy Road area - NO
Catholics in favour of a march going ahead, with 90% of
Catholics calling for rerouting or outright ban on such marches.
- In the 1997 local government elections, two candidates put
forward by the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition were both
elected, and both Breandan Mac Cionnaith and Joe Duffy now
represent their community as members of Craigavon Borough
- The above official statistics totally contradict the untruths
continually put out by the Orange Order and by the Unionist
politicians that the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition is
unrepresentative of the local community.
- British Crown forces in the North of Ireland, including the
British Army and RUC, have mounted major operations to ensure
the passage of Loyal Order marches along disputed routes like
Garvaghy Road and Ormeau Road.
- These operations have been widely condemned by national and
international human rights Organisations and by Irish,
European, Canadian, American and South African parliamentarians
who have been present on the ground to bear witness to the
reality of the situation.
- These military operations virtually amount to the imposition
of martial law and curfew upon the Catholic/Nationalist
communities. In the Garvaghy Road in 1997, at least 2,500
members of the RUC and British Army were used to subjugate the
local community whose population totals 6000 men, women and
children. Such was the extent of the military occupation of the
area, and the restrictions placed upon the movements of the
local community, that local Catholics were physically prevented
by armed soldiers and police from attending their normal Sunday
8.00am, 10.00 am, and midday Masses in St. John the Baptist
Church on the Garvaghy Road in order to facilitate an Orange
- Nationalist residents who have attempted to mount peaceful
protests against Orange Order marches have been beaten and
forcibly removed. Over two hundred people were injured in
unprovoked assaults in 1996 and a similar number again on July
6 1997 on the Garvaghy Road alone.
- In Portadown, Catholics/Nationalists only feel secure within
their own area. Over the years, many have been murdered by
pro-British Loyalist death-squads. Jack McCabe, Felix Hughes,
Eamon McMahon, Joey Weir, Martin McConville, Robert Hamill,
Thomas Trainer, Dennis Kelly and Adrian Lamph are all
Catholics who have died horrific deaths at the hands of
Loyalists in the area of the main commercial town centre
alone. Many other Catholics have been severely assaulted and
wounded in the same area while going about their normal
- Robert Hamill was murdered by a lynch mob of up to thirty
Loyalists while returning from a night out with two female
relatives in April 1997. A major controversy still surrounds his
brutal death as it was revealed that members of the RUC (police
force) were present when the attack took place but refused to
intervene to save his life, or later go to render medical
attention, despite the cries and pleas of Robert’s two cousins.
In March 1999, the one member of the murder gang that stood
trial for Robert’s killing was acquitted of any charges. The
RUC witnesses were allowed to remain silent and not testify
during the trial.
- Since the July 1998 Drumcree march, four people have been
murdered as a result of the Orange Order assaults on the
Garvaghy Road community. On July 12, three small boys were
murdered while they slept in their home in Ballymoney. The
Quinns home was petrol bombed by Orange Order supporters
because the mother was Catholic. Rescuers could not reach the
three brothers before they died in the fire set by the bomb. In
October, an RUC officer, Frank Reilly, died of injuries
sustained in September when a loyalist mob threw blast bombs and
fireworks at RUC lines protecting the Nationalist area. And in
1999, Elizabeth O’Neill, a 65-year old grandmother was killed
when loyalists threw a bomb into her home.
- On March 15, 1999 Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition Solicitor Rosemary Nelson, the well known Human Rights Activist and Civil Liberties Advocate in Ireland, was brutally murdered when a bomb was planted under her car. The first woman to set up a law practice in Lurgan, Rosemary Nelson stood for many clients who were victims of the emergency legislated system in the six counties. She accompanied the GRRC to meetings with both the British and Irish prime ministers and in proximity talks with the Orange Order. She had been under death threat from supporters of the Portadown Orange Lodge, and had received death threats and intimidation from the RUC. These threats were being investigated by the Metropolitan Police force at the time of her death. All the residents groups have joined in the call for a fully independent investigation into Rosemary’s assassination, because there is no confidence that the RUC could conduct an impartial investigation.