Gloves off for Portadown Orangemen

Residents of the nationalist Garavaghy Road in Portadown have called on the Parades Commission to review a decision not to impose restrictions on an Orange Order march due to take place in the town later this week.

Orangemen have applied to parade to Drumcree Hill on Saturday to mark 3,000 days of loyal order protests against a ban on marching along the Garvaghy Road.

Nationalist residents were angered when the Parades Commission ruled that next weekend’s march could go ahead without restrictions, even though it is set to pass St John’s Catholic Church during Saturday evening Mass.

A commission spokesman said it had carried out a full review of the parade but had allowed it to go ahead without restriction after organisers had agreed to bring the march forward to ensure it did not clash with a Mass at St John’s Catholic Church in Drumcree.

Garvaghy Road residents’ spokesman Breandan MacCionnaith said it would take High Court action if the commission failed to impose restrictions on the parade.

“The commission’s failure to issue a determination res-tricting participants in this parade from proceeding past Drumcree Church and along the Drumcree Road is totally irresponsible and without precedent given that restrictions have been imposed on similar parades since 1998,” he said.

Orange Order spokesman David Jones sparked concern earlier this month when he urged loyalists across the North to join the parade.

Mr MacCionnaith said the failure to impose restrictions meant that Orangemen could parade to the start of the nationalist Garvaghy Road, once the scene of massive confrontations and violence over sectarian parades.

“The extremely volatile situation which such a scenario could create is simply beyond the comprehension of many people,” he said.

Sinn Féin, the SDLP and the Catholic Church have raised concerns over next weekend’s parade.

“When Roger Poole took over as commission chairman he promised greater transparency and openness about the commission’s decisions,” Sinn Féin assembly member John O’Dowd said.

“In this case, the commission is not even prepared to publish its decision, or explain how it came to its conclusion.

“That is neither open or transparent but smacks of secrecy and of double-dealing conducted behind the doors.”

SDLP assembly member Dolores Kelly said: “The people of the Garvaghy Road are rightly concerned by this parade. It is certainly not the best way to improve relations in the area.”

It is understood a complaint about the decision was made by the South African Conference of Catholic Bishops General Secretariat to the Parades Commission.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News