Drumcree marchers taunt Garvaghy residents

Unionists mocked the murder of a Catholic teenager during a controversial weekend march to Drumcree in Portadown by the Protestant Orange Order.

The taunts from the Order’s supporters about the murder of Ballymena teenager Michael McIlveen. s came as the parade passed St John the Baptist Catholic Church en route to Drumcree on Saturday evening.

In May the 15-year-old schoolboy was killed after being attacked by a unionist gang in Ballymena.

There was anger in July when a flag mocking the teenager’s death was burned on a unionist bonfire in Ballymena.

The insults were the only incident in an otherwise peaceful parade, which had seen last-minute restrictions following legal action by the Garvaghy residents.

Condemning the taunts, Sinn Féin assembly member John O’Dowd said: “I think it was sick and sad but I am glad that everything went off without incident otherwise.’’

Commenting on the fact that the parades commission had been forced to review its original decision not to impose restrictions on the parade, he said: “I expect the Parades Commission to make right the mistakes which they made during the last fortnight.

“I also expect the Orange Order to finally realise that the only way this issue can be resolved is by them sitting down and talking to nationalist residents.”

An estimated 500 people took part in Saturday’s parade. The Parades Commission had been forced to carry out a review of the numbers allowed to take part after a successful legal challenge by nationalist residents.

Garvaghy residents have long called for talks over the provocative Orange Order parades and the problem of sectarianism in the town, but the Orangemen have always refused to speak to the group.

Nationalist residents spokesman Breandan MacCionnaith said he believed there was no longer support for a parade along the Garvaghy Road.

“I believe it is all over in terms of a major parades issue,’’ he said.

“[Orange Order spokesman] David Jones made a public call for people from across the six counties to come and support Portadown district but no Orangemen answered the call.

“They must finally realise now that the only way forward is through direct dialogue.”

Portadown district master Darryl Hewitt said his group was still determined to once again march through the Catholic estates.

“I am sure that a large number of people, including the UK government and the security forces would have believed, ‘let them stay there, they’re Protestants and they will soon forget about it and go home’.

“However we didn’t go home, we haven’t forgotten about it and our resolve is as strong as ever.

“We will, with your help and support, parade our traditional route back into Portadown via the Garvaghy Road.”

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© 2006 Irish Republican News