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27 February 1997 Edition

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P r e s s u r e f o r d i a l o g u e g r o w s

No to Drumcree 3


Public pressure is growing on the Orange Order and the Ulster Unionist Party to engage in real dialogue to avoid another Drumcree disaster this summer. But the push for a resolution has been hampered by John Major's House of Commons deal with David Trimble.

On Wednesday nationalist residents' groups met Gerry Adams in Belfast and Dick Spring in Dublin. ``Highly provocative'' was how Spring described Trimble's call this week for the Orange parade down the Garvaghy Road to go ahead again in 1997.

On Tuesday the British government announced a minimal legislative response to the North Commission on Parades. While that Commission's report had shortcomings it was generally welcomed as a way forward but the British government effectively binned it. This led last month to the first significant break in the Labour/Tory bi-partisan approach to Ireland at Westminster when Labour's Mo Mowlam criticised Major's failure to adopt North.

Three days of controversy on parades had begun on Monday this week when the Alliance Party withdrew from the Forum sub-committee on the issue after its unionist majority refused to meet Garvaghy Road residents. Also this week, Patrick Mayhew has written to the Garvaghy Road residents in response to a series of questions they put to him about his responsibility for last year's events at Drumcree. In his letter Mayhew fails to answer their questions.

In playing lobby politics with parades John Major has thwarted the search for dialogue and weakened those more open elements in unionism who would favour compromise. It perfectly sums up his handling of the entire peace process.


Still no dialogue over marches

By Stephen Delaney

The belief that the Tories made a back door deal with the Unionists before last Monday's crucial Westminster censure motion on BSE was given authenticity on Tuesday February 25 when the British Government announced minor measures for handling contentious marches.

The measures call for march organisers to give the RUC 21 days notice of a parade, an increase from seven days and gives the RUC permission to confiscate alcohol from people taking part in, spectating at or going to parades.

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly accused the British government of ``running away from the issue'' and said the Major government had ``all but dumped the North Report in the bin and was now taking a minimalist approach which will not upset David Trimble and the Orange Order''.

Gerard Rice of the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community (LOCC) described the measures as derisory, said, ``what is needed now is a full implementation of the North proposals with additional safeguards to explicitly guarantee the rights of nationalist and Catholic communities.''.

Gerry Adams, after a meeting with the LOCC on Wednesday 26 February, called on the Dublin government to send observers to contentious parades. He welcomed comments made by Orange Order leader Robert Saulters urging local Orange lodges to enter into mediation with local residents in areas where parades are contentious.

Rice added to Adams's comments, ``we sincerely hope that this represents a tentative step towards honestly addressing the legitimate grievances of residents and is not, as we have seen in the past, a cosmetic exercise designed to create an illusion of movement where none actually exists. We have written today to Mr Saulters seeking a meeting and we urge him to set an example to his own members by making a positive response''.

Also this week David Trimble maintained that ``the right of the Orange Order to march down the Garvaghy Road must be protected''.

On Monday 24 February the Alliance Party announced it was pulling out of a Forum committee set up to find a solution to the marching crisis. They said, ``it's now quite clear that this committee is not giving a fair hearing to alternative views.''

The Alliance decision came after the committee refused to meet members of the Garvaghy Road Residents Association who had asked to address the Forum and were refused. The Garvaghy residents had missed a deadline for submissions which the Committee, according to the Alliance spokesperson, used as an excuse to block the residents from addressing the Forum itself.

The Forum Committee will publish its report next month. They will consider 12 submissions, all from unionist groups.


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