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3 July 2003 Edition

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Trimble resurrects Drumcree card

David Trimble has once again thrown his weight behind Portadown Orangemen and their insistence that the Orange Order's Drumcree parade has a right to march through the nationalist Garvaghy Road.

The Ulster Unionist leader and former First Minister slammed a decision by the Parades Commission to reroute the Drumcree parade away from Garvaghy Road, describing the decision-making body as "an obstacle to future progress".

Announcing its determination in Belfast last Monday, the Parades Commission confirmed that Orangemen must stay away from the Garvaghy Road after next Sunday's parade to Drumcree church.

The Commission said there continued to be a strain on community relations in the area: "The Commission has cause to believe that should the parade proceed the entirety of its notified route, there would be an adverse effect on community relations and a potential for public disorder."

Trimble accused nationalist residents of "intransigence" and described the Parades Commission's ruling as "ill advised".

"Year after year, the Commission side with the Garvaghy Residents Association, a group whose continued intransigence and apparent reluctance to find a workable solution is hampering the genuine efforts of Portadown Orangemen to reach a fair and equitable outcome," said Trimble.

These are, of course, the same Orangemen whose "genuine efforts" also include routinely spitting and shouting sectarian abuse at local residents while parading past St John's Catholic Church on their way to Drumcree.

"Sadly, with another ill-advised decision, the Parades Commission have once again shown that they remain an obstacle to future progress," said Trimble.

At the height of the Drumcree crisis, David Trimble had been a prominent figure. His high profile in support of the Orange Order at Drumcree secured his leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party.

In 1995, residents brokered a deal with the Orange Order to end routing the parade through the nationalist residential area if Orangemen were allowed to march 'one last time'.

After the parade, Trimble and Paisley, holding hands, had danced their way into the town, earning them the title of the Portadown Prancers. The Order later reneged on its promise to reroute.

In 1996, Trimble, dressed in full Orange regalia, paraded in front of the loyalist mob entrenched behind lines of British soldiers and the RUC. He also met with sectarian serial killer and leader of the LVF, Billy Wright, at Drumcree.

A spokesperson for the Garvaghy Road Residents' Coalition welcomed the Parade Commission's decision. "Given the turbulent history of this parade in recent years and the absence of any genuine dialogue, it is clear that the Commission could not have reached any other decision," said the GRRC.

Dismissing media claims of dialogue, the statement continued: "The reality is that there has been no process of dialogue or mediation in relation to the Drumcree issue since the closure of the process by Brian Currin at the end of 2001."

If there has been any form of discussions in recent times, as some media reports suggest, then they have clearly been discussions from which the GRRC were deliberately excluded, said the spokesperson.

"It is also interesting to note that the Parades Commission has stated in its determination that it is "unaware of any meaningful engagement having taken place with representatives of the local community'."

Sinn Féin Upper Bann representative, Dara O'Hagan, also welcomed the Commission's determination. "This is the right decision. The nationalist community living along the Garvaghy Road have the right to live free from sectarian harassment. They have made it abundantly clear that they do not want Orange Parades through their area and past their homes," said O'Hagan.

"The Orange Order either fail to understand or refuse to understand how objectionable nationalists find their insistence that they march through nationalist areas. It is unacceptable that this issue raises its head year after year. The Orange Order should abandon their attempts to seek a march through Garvaghy Road."
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