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2 July 1998 Edition

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Garvaghy residents fear march will go ahead

by Laura Friel

``..upon retiring from service, on the different roads leading to their respective homes, they gave full scope to the anti-papal zeal with which [the service] had inspired them, falling upon every Catholic they met, beating and bruising them without distinction, breaking the doors and windows of their houses, and actually murdering two unoffending peasants..'' The Drumcree church parade of 1795, and antecedent of the present day Orange Order's July service, described by historian Francis Plowden in his ``History of Ireland'' published 1809.

As a Drumcee standoff is announced by Orangemen, nationalist residents remain fearful that an Orange parade will be forced through the Garvaghy Road despite the Parades Commission's decision to re-route next Sunday's parade.

Even before the Commission's decision was announced RUC Chief Ronnie Flanagan had declared his intention to force the parade through if loyalists threatened a replay of the siege of 1996.

David Jones, spokesperson of the Portadown district of the Orange Order, said he did not recognise the Commission or its rulings. ``If stopped, we are looking at a 1996 situation,'' he said. Posters and leaflets calling for a campaign of mass intimidation had already been distributed in loyalist areas throughout the Six counties.

Delivering the Parades Commission's decision, Chairperson Alistair Graham said, ``Given the absence of any positive move towards accommodation we cannot see at this stage how a parade could proceed again this year without having a very serious impact on community relationships, both locally and more widely across Northern Ireland.''

Privately, a commissioner admitted believing ``whatever we say, they'll go down'' the Garvaghy Road.

Armagh Grand Master Denis Watson announced the Portadown district's decision to ignore the Commission's ruling and engage in a standoff. Watson is one of 35 members of the Orange Order elected to the Assembly. He said Orangemen intended to walk down the Garvaghy Road, ``Portadown District are prepared to stand at Drumcree for 365 days for the principle and right to return and walk along the Garvaghy Road back into Portadown.''

Orange Grand Master Robert Saulters said Orangemen were determined all this summer's parades would go ahead along intended routes. Saulters said Orange leaders would maintain their stance in not meeting residents' groups ``influenced by terrorist organisations''. In an unprecedented move Saulters has written to every Orangeman in the Six counties, over 70,000 in total, urging them to take a stand against ``further assaults on Orange culture and tradition.''

Ballynafeigh Orange Lodge have declared they will protest ``for as long as it takes'' if the Commission re-routes their parade away from the Lower Ormeau Road.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for a group calling itself the Antrim Protestant Association, Eddie Baird, said the group was preparing to block all roads to Belfast Internatinal airport if Orangemen were prevented from walking down Garvaghy Road. The possiblity of violence could not be ruled out, Baird said. Dismissing a ruling by the Parades Commission banning a protest march to the airport, Baird said ``reinforcements'' were being brought in from Ballyclare, Ballymena and Coleraine to block the roads, ``We have lorries, diggers and tractors,'' he said.

Emerging from a two hour meeting with British Secretary of State Majorie Mowlam, David Trimble said the Commission's decision had ``put us all on course for confrontation with quite considerable consequences and implications for society as a whole.'' Trimble called for the decision to re-route the Drumcree parade to be overruled by Mowlam. Calling for ``good sense to prevail'', Mowlam appealed for ``both parade organisers and those who object to parades to show a single-minded determination to reach local arrangement''. However Garvaghy residents' offers of dialogue with the Orange Order continue to be rebuffed. In a lack of moral leadership, despite being MP for the Garvaghy area, Trimble has steadfastly refused to meet nationalist constituents to discuss the Drumcree parade.

Spokesperson for the Garvaghy residents, Breandan Mac Cionnaith, said that it was not for the residents to defuse the situation. ``The only people threatening disruption, the only people threatening widespread protest, the only people threatening the peace process is the Orange Order.''

The British government had made a commitment in the Agreement to equality under the law, said MacCionnaith, and the Prime Minister must ensure the rule of law was upheld on Garvaghy Road. Appealing for calm ahead of Sunday's parade, Gerry Adams called on the British government to stand up for the rights of Garvaghy Road nationalists. Speaking after an hour-long meeting with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in Dublin, Adams said it was wrong to put pressure on Garvaghy residents to accept a parade. ``No one should be putting pressure on any beleaguered community anywhere especially not the people of the Garvaghy Road. They have suffered days of shame, this year, last year and the year before,'' said Adams.

He said he had urged Tony Blair to stand up for the Agreement which talks of equality and which says people should be free from sectarian harassment. ``The responsibility of democrats is to stand by the people of Garvaghy Road, the people of Garvaghy Road deserve a day free from sectarian harassment,'' Adams said.


Harryville - sectarian picket to resume

Sinn Fein's north Antrim councillor, James McCarry, has reacted angrily to Joel Patten's announcement that the picketing of the Catholic church in Harryville, Ballymena, will be resumed.

Patten, who is leader of the ultra-loyalist Spirit of Drumcree Orangemen, issued the announcement after the Parades Commission's decision to reroute the Orange march at Drumcree away from the Garvaghy Road.

McCarry branded Patten's remarks ``a blatant act of sectarian discrimination designed to pressurise not just the massgoers but the Garvaghy Road residents and indeed the whole nationalist population.''

He urged the people of Ballymena to support the Harryville massgoers to ensure that ``they are not intimidated from their place of worship.''


Pomeroy opposes Orange parade

Pomeroy Concerned Residents Association, in their latest meeting with the Parades Commission, have once again outlined their opposition to the holding of the ``Twelfth'' in the nationalist village of Pomeroy.

There was no justifiable reason for holding the ``Twelfth'' in Pomeroy against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the residents, the association told the commission. It should ``be held in another village where local people could identify with the parade and would not feel threatened or intimidated,'' said residents.

In a nationalist village like Pomeroy, an Orange Parade can only be viewed as triumphalist and provocative and is, in fact, against the spirit of the Good Friday agreement which promised equality for nationalists. ``It is absurd to bedeck a nationalist village, such as Pomeroy, with bunting, Union Jacks, Ulster flags and Orange arches against the wishes of the residents in order to faciliate a parade that they do not want,'' residents said. The Association informed the Commission that they had written to the Orange Order in Pomeroy requesting discussion but that the Order had failed to acknowledge the letter. The Commission is to issue its ruling on 6 July.


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