20 May 1999 Edition

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Orange and loyalists hand in hand

The tensions that have been brewing between the Church of Ireland and the Orange Order over the Orange siege of Garvaghy Road came to a head at the last Church of Ireland Synod of the millennium in Dublin this week.

Speaking at the Synod on Tuesday 18 May, All Ireland Primate Archbishop Robin Eames launched an attack on the Orange Order, accusing it of being responsible for creating a climate of fear and intimidation in Portadown.

Eames also called for a clear change in attitude from the Orange leadership and backed the third attempt since last October, when he proposed that the Orange Order adopt three pledges: not to diminish the sanctity of worship, to obey the rule of law and to respect the integrity of the Church of Ireland while attending church services. The motion proposing the pledges was overwhelmingly adopted by the synod.

Garvaghy Road spokesperson Breandán MacCionnaith has welcomed Eames' call but expressed disappointment that in a preemptive move on Monday, the Orange Order said that it felt it had not been responsible for the intolerable Garvaghy Road situation.

In a Dublin sermon opening the synod, Richard Clarke, Bishop of Meath and Kildare, said that the church was colluding with racism and drew parallels with the support the Reformed Church in South Africa gave to apartheid. ``We must acknowledge for the world beyond our blinkers, Drumcree is seen as an issue of racism, in which we as the Church are colluding.''

Meanwhile, dialogue between Garvaghy Road residents, David Trimble, and the elected representatives of the area on Wednesday last week and which continued on Monday of this week have yet to result in progress. With talks adjourned until Friday week, quite what Trimble aims to put forward has yet to be seen. Trimble's only indication so far is that he is looking for this summer to pass off ``like they used to''.

  People should be under no illusions. The Garvaghy Road community will not accept any solution that involves an Orange Order march on the Garvaghy Road this year  
Breandán MacCionnaith

The twin announcements over the past week that the Orange Order in Belfast, Down and Tyrone will hold local Twelfth parades as opposed to joining a mass Portadown rally, along with reports that loyalists are planning a `long march' at the end of June, are clear signals of the Orange/loyalist strategy for the summer ahead.

The two events should not been seen as an attempt to reduce the tension and violence that Orange marches bring but as part of a wider plan to destabilise the Six Counties in the run up to Drumcree Sunday on 4 July. The twin tactics will stretch the peace process to the limit, and there is the real prospect of further tragedies like the death of the three Quinn boys last summer.

The so-called `long march', masterminded by hardline Orangemen, unionists and loyalists, is set for 23 June, a week before the 30 June Orange ultimatum delivered this week by Orange leaders. It is planned to pass through Limavady, Coleraine, Ballymoney, Ballymena, Antrim, Lisburn and Lurgan on its way to Portadown, with over 30 feeder parades around the Six Counties but specifically in the Antrim area, where a resurgent loyalism is attacking nationalists and Catholics on an ever-increasing basis.

The announcement that some Orange lodges will not converge on the Garvaghy Road can, in any event, be overturned at the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland's supreme council meeting on 2 June. Five other Orange districts have yet to decide their strategy and it is believed that the County Armagh Grand Lodge has already drawn up contingency plans to move its Twelfth from Killylea to Portadown.

David Jones, Portadown Orange spokesperson, and George Patton, executive officer of the Grand Lodge, along with the DUP's Paul Berry and Ian Paisley Jnr., are determined that there should be a mass Orange convergence on the area and that ``alternatives'' still remain. Paisley is calling for a decisive stand, with 100,000 Orangemen on Drumcree hill to force the return march down the road.

Reacting to the decision by some Orange lodges not to go to Drumcree, Sinn Féin Assembly member for Upper Bann, Dr. Dara O'Hagan, said: ``This announcement will not give much respite to the people of the Garvaghy Road. Already Orange Order representatives are saying that they will go to Drumcree after holding local parades first. This tactic was first adopted by the Orange Order last year.''

``The Garvaghy Road,'' added O'Hagan, ``has been under siege for 320 days. The Twelfth, I'm sure, will be no different.''

The planned increase in Orange marches in the run-up to Drumcree is still set to go ahead, with 8 last month, 16 planned for this month and 32 in June.

O'Hagan called on the Orange Order to take responsibility. ``They must realise they have a responsibility for the violence and intimidation which has resulted from their ongoing siege and therefore have a responsibility to ensure it is ended. Instead of organising further marches and parades in the area, they should seek to engage in positive, constructive and direct dialogue with Garvaghy Road residents.''

At a public meeting on the Garvaghy Road on Sunday, residents overwhelmingly told their own representatives that there would be no Orange march down the Garvaghy Road this year, given the nearly year-long catalogue of harassment and violence that the nationalist community of the area has suffered. Spokesperson, Breandán MacCionnaith said the message from the meeting was ``very clear.

``People should be under no illusions. The Garvaghy Road community will not accept any solution that involves an Orange Order march on the Garvaghy Road this year.''

MacCionnaith described recent Orange announcements as ``a cynical ploy'' and reiterated his call for the Grand Lodge of Ireland to rescind its resolution preventing the Portadown Orangemen from entering into direct dialogue with the Garvaghy Road residents.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
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