20 March 1997 Edition

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Feuding Orangemen confuse marching issue

Reports of a compromise made by the local Orange Order in Dromore, County Tyrone, and residents in relation to the contentious parade to take place there on July 12 has been confused and put in doubt after wrangling between local Lodge members and hardline outsiders.

Reports of an agreement first emerged on Sunday 16 March when the BBC claimed a deal had been made, but the following day leading Tyrone Orangemen contradicted this, saying any deal made had no standing as it did not have the approval of the Tyrone County organisation.

This was compounded on Wednesday when the Dromore Lodge's deputy master, Gerald Marshall -- who according to documents obtained by AP/RN actually attended the meeting on Thursday 6 March -- said in a statement that, ``the deal was dead and had been made illegally by people not acting for the local Lodge''.

However, secretary to the Lodge Charles Kenwell who also attended is now saying that the agreement has been accepted.

The Tyrone Lodges who rotate the venue of the county Parade this year decided to descend on the 80% nationalist town of Dromore and are intent on marching down the 100% nationalist Church Street area.

But in an effort to avoid a repeat of last years tensions, local residents, church leaders and political representatives met with local Order members in a credit union on Thursday March 6. After the debate some agreement had been reached, with residents deciding to allow the two local bands with 30 marchers down the Chruch Street area early in the morning while the larger parade could take part elsewhere in the town in the afternoon.

Hardline Orange chiefs including Jeffrey Donaldson and Joel Patton were outraged at the compromise and called for resignations of local members because of their talks with Sinn Fein.

Sinn Fein members were at the meeting; including Pat Watters, an Omagh district councillor and a resident of Dromore who said the outcome of the meeting was not perfect, but it was good to see dialogue between concerned residents and local Orange Lodges that could lead to compromise.

Sinn Fein's West Tyrone election representative Pat Doherty who met with local Sinn Fein representatives in the town on Tuesday evening March 18 told AP/RN, ``Sinn Fein welcomes dialogue but it must be in good faith. Sadly the dispute between the Orangemen is bringing the status of any deal made into question and certainly undermines any attempts to solve the dispute''.


Meanwhile in Belfast Apprentice Boys from the Ballynafeigh district announced on Wednesday afternoon March 19, that they will not attempt to march along the Lower Ormeau Road on Easter Monday. Walker Club representatives say that if the RUC decides to reroute their parade they will march to the Ormeau Bridge and then take bus to join the main parade, which is in the County Down town of Killyleagh rather than confront the RUC. Last year there were serious street disturbances when the Walker Club confronted the RUC and rioting continued well into the evening.

Lower Ormeau Concerned Committee (LOCC) representatives welcomed the decision and spokesperson Gerard Rice said ``the apprentice Boys have made a very courageous decision in avoiding confrontation and I hope it sets a precedent and hopefully dialogue will begin between Lower Ormeau residents and loyal orders''.

Rice pointed out that this decision was made with out dialogue between the LOCC or any other party and stressed the need for dialogue.

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