Adams backs Orange right to parade

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has controversially backed the right of the Protestant Orange Order to hold sectarian parades - despite American observers reporting “grotesque anti-Catholic displays” at last year’s parades by the order.

Many of the marches organised each year by the Protestant marching orders are opposed by nationalist communities through which they pass, occasionally leading to serious confrontations. The worst violence in recent years occurred as a result of stand-offs over the annual Drucmree parade through the nationalist Garvahy Road in Portadown, County Armagh.

The Irish Parades Emergency Committee, which has been monitoring loyalist marches for more than 10 years, said that despite relative iomprovements, the anti-Catholic nature of the parades is still evident.

In particular, unionist paramilitary banners and flags continue to be tolerated by the PSNI police. The committee says many Orange marchers last year were carrying UDA and UVF flags in overt displays of support for the sectarian murder gangs.

It also says the marchers breached Parades Commission rules by playing anti-Catholic and triumphalist sectarian songs while passing chapels and residential areas.

The report cites one previously unpreported incident where Orange supporters dressed as Catholic nuns marched passed the nationalist Ardoyne area on July 12th.

However, Sinn Féin President has confirmed he sent a letter to the Orange Order acknowledging its right to parade.

The Order said, however, it will only believe Mr Adams if the annual Drumcree parade is allowed down the nationalist Garvaghy Road this year.

Mr Adams said he had sent a letter to the leaders of the four loyal asking to meet with them on the parades issue.

“I felt meetings between myself and the leaders of the various orders could be very helpful in this respect”, he said.

“The fact is that the vast majority of these parades pass off peacefully. But there are some - a small number - which give rise each year to difficulties.

“A dialogue between the Loyal Orders and Sinn Féin would be of benefit in helping to create a better context in which these matters can be resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned.”

Mr Adams added he had received only one acknowledgement.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News