Tuesday, July 13, 1999 Published at 15:41 GMT 16:41 UK
Parades Commission takes flak
Alistair Graham: Forced to make hard choices
At their annual 'Twelfth of July' parades and demonstrations around Northern Ireland Orangemen made their most insistent call yet that the Parades Commission be disbanded.
The independent body given responsibility for deciding whether parades should be rerouted away from areas where resident oppose them, came under attack at each of the 18 demonstration sites around Northern Ireland.
Commission the problem
Also speaking in the Ormeau Park, where the largest demonstration, was moved this year in support of the Ballynafeigh lodge, Orange Grand Master, Robert Saulters warned the government that Orangemen would rally to support any district which had its parade re-routed.
He said: "In the future all districts will be with their county or if a district can't get to their county (demonstration venue), then their county will come to the district.
"No matter what district is stopped we will be there and this should be a warning to the Parades Commission and the government that we will not be splitting this county again."
In Portadown, where the Commission re-routed the Drumcree parade away from the Garvaghy Road last Sunday, Assistant Grand Master of the Orange Order John McCrea said by creating the Commission the government had "created a monster"
He said: "You know what happens when a monster is created. It often gets out of control. It is out of control.
"Mr Blair, you are the Prime Minister of the UK, not Alistair Graham. You have the ultimate authority, please use it and restore our civil liberties."
'A mere instrument'
At the South Antrim demonstration Ulster Unionist Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the commission had become ''a mere instrument for implementing the anti-Orange agenda of militant republicanism''.
Sinn Fein Assembly member Bairbre de Brun criticised the decision to allow the Orange Order to move its biggest demonstration from the traditional venue of rural Edenderry village to the central Belfast Ormeau Park.
She said the assurances given that the change would not "impinge of the life of this area" had proved false.
Only the SDLP expressed support for the Commission, on Monday, although the party said it had 'reservations' about the decision to move the Belfast demonstration.
Assembly member Alex Atwood said: "Whatever its faultlines, the Parades Commission needs to be affirmed. The best method is Government, political and community endorsement of the Parades Commission principles - face to face sustained dialogue free from protest and intimidation."
Alistair Graham went to the Ormeau Park to see the gathering of over 20,000 Belfast Orangemen from 250 lodges, loyalist bands and their supporters, for himself, but he did not make any comment on the calls for his Commission to be disbanded.
Monday's July 12 Orange parades marked the highpoint of the Northern Ireland marching season, when Protestants mark the victory in 1690 of Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne.