26 November 1998 Edition

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Orange marches planned for Portadown

by Ned Kelly

The Parades Commission's green light for a loyalist parade in support of Portadown Orangeman has been greeted with dismay by Garvaghy Road residents. The parade has been organised by the `Portadown women's branch of the Ulster Coalition for Justice'.

The commission has accepted a route from the centre of Portadown along Corcrain Road, Charles Street and Dungannon Road to Drumcree Church on Saturday 28 November with a rally addressed by Rev Hugh Ross, David Jones, Harold Gracey and the DUP's Paul Berry. The route is the same as when an RUC man was murdered two months ago.

Two of the notified bands, the Portadown True Blue and Portadown Defenders have been involved in the illegal loyalist siege of Garvaghy Road that has been increasing in intensity over the past two weeks. In recent days up to 300 loyalists have gathered by the Drumcree Church.

Independent Nationalist councillor Joe Duffy said, ``since 13 November loyalist protests have been occurring daily, but especially on Mondays and Fridays the numbers are swelled. You can't legislate for when or where they will be, it's unceasing.''

Duffy said, ``the Monday night protests are lit up by the lights of Drumcree Church'', indicating a degree of Church of Ireland complicity with the illegal loyalist gatherings.

Local councillor Breandan MacCionnaith said, ``the NIO are aware of the situation, the RUC are aware of the situation and only last week a delegation from Garvaghy Road met with the Parades Commission to make them aware of the situation.''

Pointing to the planned Grand Lodge of Ireland demonstration planned for 19 December MacCionnaith said that clearly Orangeism was legitimising the loyalist behaviour currently holding the Garvaghy Road community to ransom.

He said, ``the fact that the illegal loyalist protests and the intimidation of Nationalists is allowed to continue without being challenged by the British government, NIO, Parades Commission or RUC show they have no interest in resolving the issue.

``The British government need to understand their responsibility, they must intervene to end the disruption caused to the daily life of Nationalists and to Portadown.''

Defiantly, MacCionnaith also said: ``The increased activity by the Orange Order and loyalists, many from outside the area, is not being matched by the RUC response. The RUC response to Garvaghy Road residents is nothing short of hostile. There is a concerted attempt to wear the residents down but in reality we are more determined not to give in to intimidation.''

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