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Annual Drumcree Orange march held

5 July 09 15:09 GMT

The annual Orange Order parade at Drumcree in Portadown has passed without incident.

Orangemen have been banned since 1998 from going down the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown after their annual march from Drumcree church.

After a service at Drumcree Church, about 300 Orangemen and two bands walked to a police gate at the bottom of the hill.

Incoming Parades Commission chairwoman Rena Shepherd watched the march.

Ms Shepherd, who replaces Roger Poole later this month, said she hoped to resolve the dispute by next year.

She crossed the police line for an impromptu meeting with the Orangemen and promised to discuss the situation with them.

Police chief inspector Jason Murphy said it was welcome that the parade had passed without incident.

"That reflects the responsibility shown by the parade organisers and marchers," he said.

He added: "I look forward to a time and circumstances when even this type of scaled-down policing operation is no longer necessary."

First Minister Peter Robinson is due to hold talks with the Garvaghy Road Residents Group and the Portadown District Lodge this week.

Mr Robinson said on Friday he had invited both groups to separate meetings aimed at "enabling progress to be made, leading to a resolution of this matter".

Ms Shepherd said they "welcomed assistance from any source".

"We are confident that among the stakeholders from all sides there's a willingness to engage and hopefully we can build on that," she said.

Before 1998, attempts to ban the parade from going down the road resulted in loyalist rioting both in Portadown and across Northern Ireland.

However, when the 1998 march was forced through the Garvaghy Road it sparked republican rioting.

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