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Monday, June 7, 1999 Published at 20:40 GMT 21:40 UK


Drumcree deadlock continues

The parade has been a flashpoint for sectarian violence

By BBC Northern Ireland's Mervyn Jess

Talks aimed at resolving the Drumcree marching issue, have been postponed until the end of this week at the earliest.

Both sides in the parades dispute met last Friday and Saturday in Belfast's Interpoint building, the former home of the Northern Ireland Forum.

The Search for Peace
Before that the building housed the Belfast Co-operative Society but there was no sign of co-operation between the Orangemen and the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition after two days of discussions.

The Portadown Orange delegation left on Saturday accusing the talks convenor ACAS negotiator Frank Blair, of "complete bias" against them.

Mr Blair had tabled a draft discussion document which proposed a parade down the Nationalist Garvaghy Road this July but none thereafter.

This was totally rejected by the Orangemen who are demanding the completion of last year's Drumcree parade down the Garvaghy Road, a parade this July and a guarantee of parades along the route in future years.

On the other side the Garvaghy residents are totally opposed to a parade through their area after a series of Orange protest rallies in Portadown over the past 11 months and the murder of solicitor Rosemary Nelson.

During the talks it was also suggested that instead of marching down the Garvaghy Road following their annual Somme Commemoration Sunday service at Drumcree the District Lodge marches to a "Commemorative Field" near the Church where an Orange Heritage Centre would be built.

'Worst day so far'

The Orangemen later described this as a "side issue" along with plans for government investment in loyalist and nationalist parts of Portadown to the tune of £5M a year for the next three years.

As far as they are concerned the central and paramount issue remains their "traditional parade" down the Garvaghy Road.

The residents' coalition left the talks on Friday expressing "satisfaction" with the way it had gone, while one senior member of the Orange delegation described it as the "worst day so far" since the talks process began last Summer.

On Sunday, Portadown District Officers addressing a rally at Drumcree, said they had felt "marginalised" by the discussions.

They added that they were having "considerable difficulty" continuing to take part in a process with "those who have clearly expressed sectarian views."

The Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition has said that while it approached the two days of discussions in a "constructive way" the Orangemen had "continued to place obstacles in the way of progress."

While a third day of meetings is planned the prospects for finding a formula to break the Drumcree deadlock look as gloomy as ever.

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