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3 April 1997 Edition

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Prospect of compromise provokes Orange split

Last Monday's Apprentice Boys parade along the Ormeau Road was the first controversial march of this year's marching season and it comes at the end of weeks of speculation on whether or not compromises will be reached between Orange marchers and residents objecting to parades through their areas.

Loyalists from the Upper Ormeau Road shouted abuse while Apprentice Boys marched past an RUC blockade closing the Ormeau Bridge on Monday. As they marched down the road, forced to follow the rerouted plan, few residents took any notice of their parade, proof that there seems to be very little support even in their own community for their Easter Monday march.

However, some local loyalist residents led by UDP spokesperson Pauline Gilmour promised a ``civil rights demonstration'' on 10 May, saying that Orangemen should be allowed march on the Lower Ormeau Road this year.

On the other side of the Bridge, as the British army patrolled the side streets, the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community spokesperson Gerard Rice said he believed that the abscense of provocation was ``no victory as no compromise had been reached and that their concerns had not been taken into account''. Other residents expressed concern as they believe that the parade was a tactical move by the loyalists to avoid a repeat of last year's volence.

Three weeks ago Dromore, County Tyrone was at the centre of a dispute when it was reported that members of the local Orange Lodge made an agreement with local nationalists over a Twelfth parade along the 100% nationalist Church Street. This agreement was subsequently rejected by members of the Tyrone County Lodge and so the status of that agreement remains unclear.

However the spotlight is now back on Dunloy where an agreement between residents and Orange leaders said to have been hammered out under the auspices of the Mediation Network was wrecked by hundreds of dissident Orangemen lead by Spirit of Drumcree Orangeman Joel Patton at Carnlea Orange Hall last Thursday 27 March.

Senior Orangemen fear Patton's protests and attempts to humiliate the senior leadership will totally split the Order. The row is described as the Order's biggest crisis since 1903. Spirit of Drumcree leader Patton faces possible expulsion, though he claims his faction represents the majority of Orangemen, and that his `No Talks' message reflected the desire for no deals on any Orange parade. He has challenged the authority of the senior Orange leadership by calling on the Grand Master Robert Saulters to resign.
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