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BBC NI's Wendy Austin talks to Brian Currin
"Trust is in short supply"
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Wednesday, 7 June, 2000, 20:41 GMT 21:41 UK
Drumcree mediator starts work
Tension surrounds the annual Orange Order Drumcree parade
Tension surrounds the annual Drumcree parade
A prominent South African human rights lawyer has begun efforts to resolve the Drumcree marching dispute between Orangemen and nationalist residents.

Brian Currin met Orangemen from Portadown, County Armagh, on Wednesday after they and residents living on the Garvaghy Road agreed to accept him as a mediator.

Tension has surrounded the annual July Orange march for more than five years as Orangemen insist they must parade along the mainly Garvaghy Road route, while local residents oppose it.

The lawyer's arrival coincided with the decision of the Protestant loyal order to bring forward by a week its proposed march from a religious service at Drumcree Parish Church through the nationalist area.

The march was expected to be held on 9 July and the new date means the time to negotiate a resolution has been shortened.

The Orange Order has also lodged applications to hold thee support parades in Portadown to Drumcree Church on the evenings of 3, 4 and 5 July.

Army prepares for march

Meanwhile it is believed that the army has begun preparing for the parade, shipping machinery into Northern Ireland.

Brian Currin
Brian Currin: "Only the parties can resolve the problem"
Mr Currin is due to meet the Garvaghy Road residents on Thursday and he will meet Northern Ireland Office officials on Friday.

Building trust was the key to overcoming the marching dispute, he said speaking to BBC Radio Ulster.

"What one really needs to do is try and ensure there is a degree of trust. Trust is in short supply, and work on the relationship between the parties.

"Until such time as one succeeds in improving that relationship, it's very difficult to break deadlocks.

"Often when you start unpacking the causes of conflict you find it's more to do with the relationship between the parties than the actual issue."

A series of talks on the issue with British Government representatives have so far failed to broker any resolution to the dispute.

'Independent outsider'

A co-chairman of the Northern Ireland Sentence Review Commission, Mr Currin said he was in a slightly different position to previous mediators because he was a completely independent outsider.

He said he would start by getting the parties themselves to set a framework for discussion.

Portadown Orange spokesman David Jones
David Jones: "Exploratory talks"
"Both parties have made it absolutely clear that my involvement at this stage is limited to that pre-mediation. Only if we get agreement on that will we move forward into mediation.

"The issue seems to me to be bigger than focusing only on the march," he said.

Only the parties themselves could ultimately resolve the problem, he added.

'Entrenched position'

However as he got down to work, a leading County Armagh Orangeman said he did not believe a resolution would be reached.

Orange County Grand Chaplain William Bingham said that while he believed Mr Currin was sincere, he did not expect the talks to succeed.

Breandan MacCionnnaith:
Breandan MacCionnnaith:To meet lawyer
"I think Brian Currin is investigating the possibility of a process, I have no doubt that the man is very able. I have no doubt that he will be able to set up a process.

"However I don't think it will deliver a resolution to the problem. I think Breandan MacCionnaith is so entrenched in his position that he has no desire whatsoever to reach accommodation," he said.

Portadown District Orange Lodge spokesman David Jones said these were "exploratory talks" and where they might lead to "remains to be seen".

Garvaghy Residents Coalition spokesman Breandan MacCionnaith said the order's proposal to march on 2 July would heighten tension in the area over a longer period.

The controversial march is traditionally held on the Sunday before 12 July, which is the main day in the province's Protestant marching season.

The Northern Ireland Parades Commission has imposed restrictions on the march for the past two years which has prevented it going down the Garvaghy Road.

Both sides have already met Mr Currin within the past two months.

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See also:

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New mediator in marching dispute
31 May 00 | Northern Ireland
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05 Jul 99 | UK Politics
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05 Jul 99 | UK
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