Orangemen escalate Drumcree standoff

Nationalist politicians have accused the Orange Order of holding the community to ransom over fears that it will attempt to stage an illegal Drumcree march.

Portadown Orangemen have refused to apply to the Parades Commission to hold their annual march on July 4.

The threat of an illegal parade is understood to have raised serious concerns of potential violence by loyalists to attempt to force the parade through the nationalist Garvaghy enclave in Portadown.

Serious loyalist violence took place during Drumcree disputes in the late 1990s with Orangemen orchestrating widespread disturbances.

The Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition spokesman accused the Portadown Orangemen of trying to raise sectarian tensions.

“It’s obvious that the Orange Order is playing a game of brinkmanship,” Mr Mac Cionnaith said.

“They recognise that the current draft legislation has actually sounded the death knell for the Parades Commission and the Orange Order in Portadown is trying to take advantage of that.

“The order could do what this community has asked them to do time and time again and parade to Drumcree and home from it again by the Corcrain and Dungannon roads and leave this community to live in peace.”

Sinn Fein Assembly member John O’Dowd also accused the Orange Order of raising tensions.

“Most people in Portadown outside of the Orange Order see the situation at Drumcree as resolved,” he said.

“Over the pest 10 years we have seen none of the violence and the people of Portadown have been able to get on with their lives.

“Not satisfied with this, the Orange Order have now sought to turn the previously non-contentious outward route into a problem for the PSNI and the community in Portadown.”

SDLP Assembly member Dolores Kelly described the development as “worrying”.

“We in the SDLP had warned the British government and others at Hillsborough that they should not mess around with the Parades Commission, that as a consequence of it others would try to mess around with parades this year,” she said.

“This is obviously going to lead to a degree of tension in the Portadown area, an area where people had hoped the Garvaghy Road issue had been resolved.”

An Ulster Unionist Party spokeswoman refused to criticise the order for its refusal to apply for a legal parade.

“Portadown district is clearly showing its frustration at what it considers to be a lopsided approach by the authorities to some parades in Northern Ireland,” she said.


The annual Tour of the North parade passed off without major incident on Friday night. In previous years serious violence erupted as the Orange Order feeder parade passed the north Belfast interface.

However, because the Parades Commission had forbidden the feeder parade to pass the main Ardoyne flashpoint, the chance of trouble this year was greatly diminished.

The commission ruled that to allow marchers to pass the flashpoint would have an adverse effect on “elreedy fragile community relations and potential for public disorder”.

England’s World Cup match with Algeria coincided with the parade, meaning many people stayed indoors or in pubs watching the football match rather then venturing to the interface.

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