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17 June 1999 Edition

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British `Gameplan' Fear


The suspicion that the British government and the NIO may be preparing to storm the Orange Order down the Garvaghy Road this July has caused alarm within nationalist communities across the North. Gerry McConville of the community group based Belfast Friends of Garvaghy Road said the prospect of a replay of the notorious `gameplan' of Drumcree 1997 had been rekindled recently.

In 1997, the British government violently forced the Orange Order along the Garvaghy Road in the early hours of the morning to avoid the international PR nightmare of media images of baton-wielding RUC men attacking peaceful demonstrators. ``It is almost incredible that the British government would even contemplate forcing a Orange march down the Garvaghy Road'', said McConville. ``Almost incredible , that is, because the same British Labour government used the same stealth and storm tactics in July 1997.''

Earlier this week, Breandán Mac Cionnaith of the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition, expressed his concern that the British government's preferred option is to get Orange feet on the Garvaghy Road. On Tuesday Councillor Mac Cionnaith and Councillor Joe Duffy met with community workers throughout Belfast to discuss the ongoing siege of the Garvaghy Road.

``Every person who cherishes human rights must now demonstrate solidarity with the besieged community of the Garvaghy Road'' said McConville. The difference between 1997 and 1999 ``is that Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern have since become guarantors of an Agreement which enshrines ``the right to freedom from sectarian harassment''.

Meanwhile, Lower Ormeau residents are urging nationalists to attend a rally on Wednesday 23 June on the Lower Ormeau Road in Belfast at 7.30pm. Calls have also be made for nationalists to come and support the residents of the Springfield Road during a contentious Orange march on Saturday 26 June.

A mural illustrating events that have taken place this past year will be unveiled on Wednesday evening on the Ormeau Road and speakers, including Garvaghy Road Residents' Coalition spokesperson Breandán Mac Cionnaith and Gerard Rice will address the gathering.


Raving and Ranting, the Orange carnival continues


For once, Portadown Orangeman David Jones almost said it all. Speaking in the wake of violent clashes between loyalists and the RUC following Orange Order demonstrations in Portadown at the weekend, Jones told Orange supporters: ``I'm not asking you to throw petrol bombs, pipe bombs, I'm not asking you to go out and assault, kill and murder...''

Since Reverend William Bingham's acknowledgement of Orangemen's culpability in the Quinn murders last year, it was the closest admission by any member of the Orange Order that sectarian violence is directly linked to their stance at Drumcree. A few hours earlier the Grand Orange Lodge had been less honest.

In a statement read out during four ``Mini Twelfth'' parades culminating in rallies encircling the Garvaghy Road, the Grand Lodge complained of being ``vilified'', ``demonised'' and ``blamed for events we had no part in nor would ever condone.''

Reaffirming their support ``for the great principles of freedom of movement and freedom of assembly,'' the Grand Lodge called for support of the Portadown Orange district's stance at Drumcree. The Grand Lodge stood ``shoulder to shoulder'' with Portadown Orangemen, the marchers were told at rallies in Corcrain, Drumcree, Park Road and Woodhouse Street.

An hour before Portadown had ``come to a standstill'', as Grand Master Robert Saulters led the protesters through the town. An hour later, violence erupted as Orange protesters clashed with the RUC. ``There is no respect for the RUC within loyalism now,'' said Orangeman William Ramsey, accusing the RUC of provocation.

But the mask of victimhood ill fits the face of Orangeism, public or private. In the parody of a civil rights march, the Orange Order recently announced plans for a march from Derry through Belfast to Portadown. The parallel is being drawn with an early civil rights march from Belfast to Derry which was ambushed by Orangemen close to Burntollet almost 30 years ago.

It's the same hall of mirrors which allows Ian Paisley to refer to the Anti-Agreement minority in the Six Counties, as the majority of `The Majority'. Such interpretations of the world should be treated with the same disdain as the dismissal of the British racists' cry that black people are taking their jobs. It's a myth but a very dangerous myth all the same.

The Orange march which is scheduled to begin on 24 June will arrive at Drumcree on 3 July, a day before the controversial 4 July parade. Ignoring the Church of Ireland synod, Drumcree parish rector, Reverend John Pickering is refusing to withdraw an invitation to Portadown Orange Lodges even if they refuse to abide by the law. Since last July, there have been over 180 Orange parades in Portadown, the vast majority along the interface of the nationalist Garvaghy Road estate - only 40 have been legal.

As the mask slips, revelations about anti-Catholic propaganda openly being preached in Newcastle Orange Hall exposed the sectarian face of Orangism once again. The sessions by a loyalist fundamentalist preacher who has been linked to loyalist terror gangs were publicly advertised as taking place at the Orange Hall. A sectarian message of hate was heard behind its locked doors.

Alan Campbell, who teaches Religious Education in Newtownabbey Community School, describes himself as a Christian Fundamentalist. Campbell recently used an Internet website to claim that Rome was conducting a ``holy war'' against Ulster Protestants. He also claims Protestants should be proud to be called bigots. It is perhaps not so strange that so bizarre a ranter found himself at home in an Orange Hall.

Meanwhile, the nationalist community of Portadown continues to bear the brunt of Orange intimidation. Garvaghy Road Residents' spokesperson Breandán MacCionnaith described last Saturday's Orange rallies as ``just a taste of things to come.'' The Orange parades had ``effectively sealed off the Garvaghy Road from 6pm onwards,'' said Mac Cionnaith.

Despite the fact that the Orange delegation had walked out of proximity talks last week to publicly repudiate ACAS mediator Frank Blair, the Order, obviously in a state of sudden amnesia, emerged from a meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair this week to accuse the residents of having no respect for proximity talks. And so as we go around and around, getting nowhere fast, the Orange carnival moves closer to its finale at Drumcree.


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
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