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Wednesday, June 9, 1999 Published at 14:15 GMT 15:15 UK

UK Politics

Chaplain predicts 'most dangerous' Drumcree

The chaplain warns this year's march could be the "most dangerous"

A senior Orange Order Chaplain has warned that this year's Drumcree situation is the most difficult and dangerous of all the confrontations during the past five years.

The Search for Peace
Presbyterian Minister Rev William Bingham, a County Armagh Orange Grand Chaplain, was speaking during a debate on contentious parades at the Presbyterian General Assembly in Belfast.

Reverend Bingham condemned the violence at Drumcree last summer but said the process of trying to find a solution had started to produce negative effects.

"I've been involved in proximity talk after proximity talk - I can only say today that we are further apart than when we first began the process."

He alleged that several residents groups were controlled by Sinn Fein and were designed to heighten community tension, create division and segregation.

[ image: Reverend William Bingham: A senior Orange Order chaplain and Presbyterian cleric]
Reverend William Bingham: A senior Orange Order chaplain and Presbyterian cleric
The assembly was attended by senior members of the Orange Order. The Order's Chief Executive, George Patton, said that they had tried to move things forward but now it was the turn of the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition.

During a lively debate on Drumcree, the former moderator of the Presbyterians, Dr John Dunlop, called on Orangemen to follow the example of the Apprentice Boys by obeying the ruling of the Parades Commission on contentious parades and by entering into dialogue with nationalist residents groups.

"We further believe that the time has come for people to discuss their differences with one another - we cannot instruct people to do it but we would like to encourage them to do it, " said Dr Dunlop.

It is understood that a vote will be taken on the issue at the Presbyterian Assembly later on Wednesday afternoon.

Rev Bingham. was widely praised during the Drumcree crisis in 1998 as he called on Portadown Orangemen to abandon their proposed march along the Garvaghy Road when, on July 12, the Quinn children were murdered in a loyalist petrol bomb attack in Ballymoney.

Inside Orange circles, however, his stance caused serious division and Spirit of Drumcree faction leader, Joel Patton heckled him at an Orange celebration in a public challenge to what some Orangemen alleged was a betrayal of the stance of the Portadown lodge.

Meanwhile, proximity talks involving the Portadown Orangemen and the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition are due to be reconvened within the next day or two. They had been scheduled to resume on Monday after breaking up on Saturday but they were postponed.

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07 Jun 99 | UK
Drumcree deadlock continues

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