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Sunday, July 4, 1999 Published at 21:48 GMT 22:48 UK


Can Drumcree be resolved?

Orangemen behind the wire: Will it ever end ?

The editors of Northern Ireland's nationalist and unionist morning newspapers discuss whether the two sides in Drumcree dispute are capable of agreeing.

Noel Doran of the nationalist Irish News and Geoff Martin of the unionist Newsletter analysed the situation in Portadown, County Armagh, on BBC Northern Ireland's Drumcree Special Sunday programme.

Orangemen are involved in a dispute with nationalists about whether they can parade along the Garvaghy Road, from which they have been banned by the Parades Commission.

The Search for Peace
Efforts by both Prime Minister Tony Blair and First Minister David Trimble to reach a solution were not successful.

The march was re-routed away from the nationalist area on Sunday, but Orange protests are continuing for the fifth year running.

'Orange optimism'

Geoff Martin said he thinks that optimism about a possible deal involving Orangemen being allowed to walk down the Garvaghy Road in future had calmed tensions in Portadown.

He said: "They were optimistic at David Trimble's initiative which involved a meeting with the Garvaghy Road residents immediately after a parade down the Garvaghy Road.

[ image: Geoff Martin: Time to resolve issue]
Geoff Martin: Time to resolve issue
"I did hear last week as we got close to the signing of the deal with the two prime ministers, that there was a possibility of a parade in August and I think that's what has given the Orangemen the buoyancy that we see this morning that we haven't seen in previous years.

"I think it will be a calming influence. If the Orange Order are saying, well we can't go down the road today, but bear with us. We think we can get a resolution in the next few weeks then that will take a lot of the heat out of the situation.

"It remains to be seen if the same optimism is there on the other side of the barricades.

'Garvaghy parade expected'

[ image: Noel Doran: Belief that parade will happen]
Noel Doran: Belief that parade will happen
Noel Doran said that there had been a widespread belief that there would eventually be an Orange parade along the Garvaghy Road.

He said: "I think that there has been a very widespread belief on both sides of the community that for better or for worse there was some sort of informal arrangement which would lead to an Orange parade in some shape or form along the Garvaghy Road at some date."

"The belief was that it was closely linked to events today. That if there was no violence, no serious violence if there was a dignified and appropriate low key protest that that might allow things to move on."

Strong views

Mr Doran said he felt that megaphone diplomacy between Garvaghy Residents Spokesman Breandan MacCionnaith and Portadown District Master Harold Gracey would make progress difficult.

He said: "Harold Gracey is the central figure in Portadown. He has been for some time, and he doesn't speak to us very often but when he does he expresses himself in very direct terms, as he did last year when he said the protest was not just to get down the Garvaghy Road, but to bring down the Good Friday Agreement.

" It will be interesting to see how that point of view will be brought into this process."

Blair's efforts

Both editors acknowledged that UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has tried hard to broker an agreement between the two sides.

Geoff Martin said: "Tony Blair did spend a lot of time last week trying to sort out this problem with meetings with both the Orangemen and the Garvaghy Road residents.

"I don't think that the crucial thing will be whether Harold Gracey will meet Breandan MacCionnaith. I think that ways can be devised of dialogue or even indirect dialogue between the two sides to resolve this.

Noel Doran said: "I think we have to pay tribute to Tony Blair. The effort that he has put in to resolving this matter has been quite unbelievable.

"When we saw the plans unveiled at Stormont he moved on almost immediately to try again at Drumcree."

Time for agreement

Geoff Martin said that the two communities would have to put a stop to the violence, which has occurred after the annual Drumcree parade for five years.

He said: "They've both talked about the troubles that the nationalist community in Portadown has faced in the last year and there is obviously some truth in that.

"But the two sides in this argument have to decide, do they want to go through this year in year out.

"With all the protests attached Drumcree and all the counter protests by nationalists and the fact that every time Orangemen gather there, there seems to be trouble from one side or the other, or do they want to sort it out once and for all?

"I think the thinking is that it will have to be sorted out.

"I think the Orange Order have worked very hard on the PM on trying to make him aware of what their position is, that they are not out for confrontation.

"They have told me that they don't want to force their way down the Garvaghy Road, that they don't even want to be forced down the Garvaghy Road by the RUC.

" They want an agreement where they can walk down with dignity and preferably with as few members of the security forces as possible."

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