15 June 2000 Edition
Portadown tense as loyalists plan mayhem
The news came as no surprise. On Wednesday, 14 June, the Orange Order confirmed it would continue to refuse meeting the Parades Commission. This move comes only days after the Order confirmed that it would wage a major campaign of disruption in early July in Portadown.
The Order kicked off by lodging an application with the Parades Commission for the main Drumcree march to take place on Sunday 2 July instead of 9 July, as originally planned. A few days later, it was confirmed that, in a move aimed at coercing the British government and the Parades Commission into permitting an Orange march down the Garvaghy Road, the Order was lodging applications to parade every day until 9 July.
Senior Orange men were quoted saying that in effect there would be two episodes of Drumcree this year.
The sectarian organisation and loyalist supporters are planning ten days of disruption and mayhem in the Portadown area and tensions are growing rapidly.
In recent weeks, there have been a series of articles in British and Irish newspapers suggesting that the UDA's notorious Johnny Adair has thrown his support behind the Portadown Orangemen. Such sinister news is ringing alarm bells amongst Portadown nationalists and comes against the backdrop of a strengthening of links between the Loyalist Volunteer Force and the UDA/UFF, led by Adair.
A series of sectarian attacks have also sharpened fears of more violence during the summer. It has emerged that a fire in the porch of St. John's chapel on the Garvaghy Road was sectarian. A similar fire broke out at St. Malaghy's church in the Ormeau Road area of Belfast. The idea that both attacks were ``coincidences'' was ruled out, as both Ormeau and Garvaghy Road residents are demanding the rerouting of Loyal Order parades.
After a so-called mini-Twelfth parade in Portadown town centre on Saturday, a Catholic taxi driver was attacked by upwards of 20 loyalists as he drove along the Corcrain Road in Portadown.
The night after, cars and buses carrying GAA fans home from the Ulster Football Championship match were also attacked. The roadway was blocked by number of obstructions, forcing the cars and buses to slow down. Loyalists then attacked the vehicles with missiles.
Windows in a numbers of vehicles were smashed and passengers showered with broken glass. One minibus carried 16 passengers, many of them young children had its windscreen smashed and its driver struck by a missile. Luckily, he managed to maintain control of the vehicle, averting a serious accident.
Meanwhile, Upper Bann Assembly member Dara O Hagan has slammed the Parades Commission decision to allow an Orange march in Lurgan on June 17. ``This decision is completely incomprehensible,'' says Dara, ``this is a march which goes nowhere. The Orange Order march along William Street and then turn and come back down it again. The only possible reason for this can be to annoy nationalists.''
The decision followed a refusal by the Commission to meet local Sinn Fein representatives.
Sinn Féin backs Springfield residents
Lower Falls Sinn Féin Councillor Tom Hartley has voiced his support for the residents of the Springfield Road who last week began a series of protests which are set to continue this week against the Orange march proposed for the area on 24 June.
``The situation on the Springfield Road is one of the most ridiculous of all the contentious parades,'' said Hartley. ``The Orange Order goes out of its way to march through a nationalist area. The gates at the peace line, which remain closed all year, are opened on this one day to facilitate this parade.
``Residents are subjected to nightly sectarian attacks.
``It is time for the Orange Order to recognise the depth of feeling which exists within the Springfield Road community in relation to this parade. This can only be done through meaningful dialogue. In the absence of this, the parade must be rerouted away from nationalist homes.''
US call for monitoring of Orange marches
Benjamin Gilman, Chairperson of the US House International Relations Committee, has joined with the Irish-American Unity Conference in calling for international observers to monitor this year's sectarian marches in the Six Counties.
Gilman declared that such marches are corrosive to peace and reconciliation in Ireland:
``These marches should be eliminated in their entirety since they undermine the intentions of the Good Friday Agreement by insulting Catholics and inciting civil unrest. If this goal cannot be met at the present moment, then the marches should be closely monitored by the international community in order to deter the possibility of any violence.
``On the heels of the re-establishment of the power-sharing government in the north of Ireland, there is an expectation that the terms of the Good Friday Agreement will be completed quickly, including the realisation of a comprehensive programme of human rights legislation,'' Gilman noted.
He said that the marching season had come to the fore once again because of the April through October sectarian marches that are predominantly initiated by the Loyal Orders, a secret society which Catholics are prohibited from joining.
Gilman has joined with an array of Irish-American groups and international human rights organisations, among them Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, in denouncing these marches as sectarian in nature and an impediment to the reconciliation envisaged in the Good Friday Agreement.
Gilman said the House International Relations Comittee supports the work of international observers and urges other qualified people to contribute in a similar way to help bring about reconciliation in Ireland.