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BBC NI's Wendy Austin talks to Brian Currin
"Trust is in short supply"
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Thursday, 8 June, 2000, 06:45 GMT 07:45 UK
Pressure on for Drumcree solution

Orangemen: Refused permission to walk Garvaghy Road in 1998 and 1999
Orangemen have applied to hold three further parades in the flashpoint area of Drumcree in Portadown.

Portadown District Orange Lodge have applied to hold parades from Portadown to Drumcree Parish Church on 3, 4 and 5 July, as "support marches" to a main parade to the church on 2 July.

The application to the Northern Ireland Parades Commission, was made on Wednesday after the Orangemen met prominent South African human rights lawyer Brian Currin, who has agreed to act as a mediator between them and nationalist residents.

Tension has surrounded the annual July Orange march for more than five years as Orangemen insist they must parade along the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road as part of their parade route, while local residents oppose it.

Mr Currin's arrival in Northern Ireland coincided with a decision by the Protestant loyal order to apply for an additional parade on 2 July, a week before the traditional Drumcree Sunday march.

The 9 July march to a Somme commemoration service at Drumcree is still expected to go ahead as normal. The Portadown Orangemen have applied for each parade to return from the church through the nationalist area.

The earlier march date means the time to negotiate a resolution has been shortened.

Army prepares for march

Meanwhile, the army is believed to have begun preparing for the parade, shipping machinery into Northern Ireland.

Brian Currin
Brian Currin: "Only the parties can resolve the problem"
Mr Currin is due to meet the Garvaghy Road residents on Thursday and he will meet Northern Ireland Office officials on Friday.

Building trust was the key to overcoming the marching dispute, he said speaking to BBC Radio Ulster.

"What one really needs to do is try and ensure there is a degree of trust. Trust is in short supply, and work on the relationship between the parties.

"Until such time as one succeeds in improving that relationship, it's very difficult to break deadlocks.

"Often when you start unpacking the causes of conflict you find it's more to do with the relationship between the parties than the actual issue."

A series of talks on the issue with British Government representatives have so far failed to broker any resolution to the dispute.

'Independent outsider'

A co-chairman of the Northern Ireland Sentence Review Commission, Mr Currin said he was in a slightly different position to previous mediators because he was a completely independent outsider.

He said he would start by getting the parties themselves to set a framework for discussion.

Portadown Orange spokesman David Jones
David Jones: "Exploratory talks"
"Both parties have made it absolutely clear that my involvement at this stage is limited to that pre-mediation. Only if we get agreement on that will we move forward into mediation.

"The issue seems to me to be bigger than focusing only on the march," he said.

Only the parties themselves could ultimately resolve the problem, he added.

'Entrenched position'

However, as Mr Currin got down to work, a leading County Armagh Orangeman said he did not believe a resolution would be reached.

Orange County Grand Chaplain William Bingham said that while he believed Mr Currin was sincere, he did not expect the talks to succeed.

Breandan MacCionnnaith:
Breandan MacCionnnaith:To meet lawyer
"I think Brian Currin is investigating the possibility of a process. I have no doubt that the man is very able. I have no doubt that he will be able to set up a process.

"However I don't think it will deliver a resolution to the problem. I think Breandan MacCionnaith is so entrenched in his position that he has no desire whatsoever to reach accommodation," he said.

Portadown District Orange Lodge spokesman David Jones said these were "exploratory talks" and where they might lead to "remains to be seen".

Garvaghy Residents Coalition spokesman Breandan MacCionnaith said the order's proposal to march on 2 July would heighten tension in the area over a longer period.

He added that the new effort was "probably too little, too late".

"I don't think we'll see any agreement by the summer," he said.

The Northern Ireland Parades Commission has imposed restrictions on the Drumcree march for the past two years which has prevented it going down the Garvaghy Road.

Both sides have already met Mr Currin within the past two months.

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See also:

07 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Drumcree mediator starts work
05 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
New mediator in marching dispute
31 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Cross-community concert in Portadown
13 Oct 99 | Northern Ireland
Drumcree talks progress claims disputed
05 Jul 99 | UK Politics
Praise for Drumcree restraint
05 Jul 99 | UK
Can Drumcree be resolved?
04 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Drumcree protest on 700th day
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