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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 March, 2004, 17:33 GMT 18:33 UK
Tributes for Orange Order leader
Mr Gracey has led Orangemen during the Drumcree protests
Tributes have been paid to the leader of the Orange Order in Portadown, Harold Gracey, who has died.

Mr Gracey, who was in his 60s and had been ill for some time, died at his home on Sunday morning.

A member of the Orange Order for most of his life, Mr Gracey was appointed District Master of the Portadown Lodge 18 years ago.

He is most famous for his role in leading Orangemen during the Drumcree protests since 1995.

Orange Order spokesman David Jones hailed Mr Gracey as a "true lifelong Orangeman".

"Harold made a massive contribution to the Orange Order and particularly the Portadown District," he said.

Harold was a legend in Portadown, he had tremendous support from a great range of people
David McNarry
UUP assembly member

"He was an individual who was very strong in his commitment to civil and religious freedom for all.

"That is why he could not abide by the Parades Commission's decision to bar Orangemen walking home along their traditional route from Drumcree Parish Church."

The dispute at the County Armagh church surrounds the desire of Orangemen to march along the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road on their way back from a church service against residents' wishes.

Last year's march passed off peacefully, but over the years, there has been serious violence directed against the police and Army at Drumcree.

During the 2000 dispute, Mr Gracey sparked controversy among members when he said that he would not condemn any violence linked to Drumcree protests because Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams never condemned republican violence.

The Reverend Jim Rea, Minister of Thomas Street Methodist Church, Portadown and President of the Methodist Church in Ireland expressed his sadness at Mr Gracey's death.

"Harold Gracey was an honest Ulsterman who had strong convictions and principles," he said.

"He always exuded warmth and friendship in personal relationships."

Ulster Unionist assembly member David McNarry, who is a member of the Orange Order, said it was a privilege to be Mr Gracey's friend.

"Harold was a legend in Portadown, he had tremendous support from a great range of people and it was very very sad for me when I heard the news this morning," he said.

BBC NI's Julie McCullough:
"Fellow Orangeman David Jones said Mr Gracey worked tirelessly for the institution throughout his life"

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