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17 December 1998 Edition

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Where's the justice for Garvaghy Road?

by Ned Kelly

As proximity talks get under way on Wednesday with Garvaghy Road residents and Portadown Orangemen, 10,000 Orangemen and their Loyalist brethren are due back at the Drumcree church this Saturday. The Parades Commission allowed the march despite expressing ``major concern'' at the ``very real prospect of major disorder''.

It will be followed by Orange marches planned for 20, 23, 30 and 31 December and 2 January.

The illegal Loyalist siege of Garvaghy Road has now continued unabated since July. And, as it has increased in frequency, intensity and blind bigotry, the RUC, the British government and David Trimble have failed to respond. Now at the eleventh hour Garvaghy residents have again been bounced into proximity talks. These have failed to produce a solution in the past. In fact, in previous years they have been the harbinger of the RUC's `operationally independent' decisions to force the Orange march down the Garvaghy Road.

SF Assembly member Dara O'Hagan, reacting to news of the proximity talks, said, ``direct dialogue between residents' representatives and the Orange Order is the best chance of making progress. However, any dialogue will be best served free from intimidation and threat. If the Orange Order are serious about addressing the problem it must call off its siege.''

Since 5 July, over 100 mainly illegal Orange demonstrations have been held in Portadown. The Orange Order has ignored attempts by the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition to find a solution. Anti-Catholic violence across the Six Counties has not decreased as we move towards a new political dispensation.

The impasse in Stormont, the inability to understand the central need for an inclusive executive is mirrored in the Orange Order's inability to accept the basic rights of Catholics and Nationalists on the Garvaghy Road.
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