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Wednesday, October 13, 1999 Published at 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

Drumcree talks progress claims disputed

Tension surrounds the annual Orange Order Drumcree parade

Claims that progress has been made on the dispute over the controversial Drumcree parade in Portadown have been disputed.

Representatives of the nationalist Garvaghy Road residents' group and the Protestant Orange Order met for discussions chaired by Northern Ireland security minister Adam Ingram on Tuesday night.

According to the Garvaghy residents' group, there had been some progress. But Orange leaders said there had been no movement over their demand to allow an Orange parade.

The Search for Peace

Following the meeting, Garvaghy residents' spokesman Breandan MacCionnaith said the Orange Order demand for a march along the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road no longer headed the agenda for discussions on the issue.

"I believe that would be the view that is accepted by the others that were at that meeting," he said.

Cllr Breandan MacCionnaith:"The Orange Order parade no longer heads the agenda"
"We pointed out that there were a basic set of rights and a basic set of principles which should underpin any process and we will be returning to that again.

"But for tonight we are happy enough that we have now started and embarked upon that path of designing a proper process and getting away from this hap-hazard adhoc approach which has been taken by government to date."

However, this claim was disputed by Portadown Orange Lodge spokesman David Jones who said that they had no mandate to discuss any issue except their proposed parade along the Garvaghy Road.

Portadown Orange lodge spokesman David Jones: we can only discuss parade issue
"As far as we are concerned, we don't have any mandate or any remit to discuss anything else, " he said.

He said that issues such as equality which had been raised by Breandan MacCionnaith would be more appropriately discussed in the chamber of Craigavon Council where the residents spokesman was an elected member.

[ image: David Jones: March first priority]
David Jones: March first priority
He added that although they would participate in a wider discussion on issues in the Portadown area, through a Civic Forum, it would only be as one of a number of other contributors and after the issue of the parade had been resolved to their satisfaction.

Portadown Orange Lodge did not have direct talks with the Garvaghy Road Residents because of Orange Order policy on meeting directly with "Sinn-Fein-backed residents groups," so Tuesday night's meeting took place with their legal and political representatives.

The dispute over the route of the County Armagh parade has intensified over the past five years.

Residents living on the Garvaghy Road have campaigned to have the parade re-routed away from their area, while Portadown Orange Lodge says it is its right to walk along the Garvaghy Road.

Tension surrounding the Drumcree march caused a major security operation to be put in place in Portadown during July 1999 following serious violence at a protest by the Orange Order and their supporters on Drumcree hill in Portadown in 1998.

The protest followed a decision by the Parades Commission in Northern Ireland to re-route the parade away from the Garvaghy Road.

The government recently announced that it would begin a review of the Parades Commission and that its chairman, Alistair Graham, and several members were stepping down at the end of their current term in February 2000.

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Internet Links

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Portadown District Orange Lodge

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