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24 June 1999 Edition

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Orange Order meets bitter opposition

By Caítlin Doherty

The Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition has called for a mass mobilisation in the besieged area on Sunday, 4 July, the day the Orange Order will attempt to march through the beleagured area. The Coalition is urging nationalists across Ireland and abroad to show support for the residents of the Garvaghy Road and the wider area. The rally is being organised to ``highlight the right of the people to live free from sectarian harassment''. It is highly recommended that people wishing to participate in the rally travel to Portadown on 3 July.
As the so-called `long march', rightly dubbed the March of Shame, gets underway in Derry on Thursday, the Orange Order seems set to choke on the Orange sash in what is clearly a backlash against their suicidal attitude of ``no-talk'' and sheer intransigence over these past months.

On Tuesday, Archbishop Robert Eames, the Church of Ireland primate, summoned the Orange Order Portadown district LOL to promise that they would abide by the pledges they were asked to accept two weeks earlier. Archbishop Robert Eames said that they had until Thursday to state that they would uphold the pledges. If they didn't, the traditional invitation to the Sunday service at Drumcree would be withheld.

The most interesting development, however, came on Monday when the Royal Black Institution, a pillar of the Orange Order, voted by a large majority at a meeting in Ballymena not to support the Drumcree march. The vote was a clear slap in the face to Portadown district spokesperson David Jones, a member of the Institution, who is said to have walked out after the result of the vote was announced.

A opinion poll, carried in Tuesday's media, also sent strong shockwaves. According to the findings of a survey ordered by the Parades Commission, almost 90% of people agree that the Orange Order should abandon its policy of ``no talk'' as dialogue is needed to help resolve disputes like Drumcree.

The survey, carried out by the Parades Commission, found that 86% of 1,000 people surveyed believe the Orange Order should enter into direct talks with the Parades Commission.

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, published on Tuesday, Parades Commission chairman Alistair Graham also lashed out at the Orange Order, stating: ``I think it is most unfortunate that the Portadown Orange LOL and the Grand Lodge did not sufficiently pick up the message... that the decision last year was for 1998 alone.''

Graham went on to label the attitude of the Orange Order this past year as ``very counterproductive''. He continued: ``They have undoubtedly set in trail action by some some groups in Portadown which have had a very serious impact on community relations. It's very worrying, the inability of groups like the Orange Order to control some of their supporters, as we've seen in some of the outrageous behaviour that has taken place in Portadown over the past year.''

Meanwhile, the Friends of the Garvaghy Road, a lobby group that intends to press for the full implementation of the Equality and Human Rights provisions of the Agreement, carried out a day of action on Wednesday. The office of Bertie Ahern was faxed by community groups and individuals across the island. A letter with an Irish passport and the words ``U. O. Me'' was transmitted to Dublin government buildings. The statement read: ``I would ask that you outline on your visit to Belfast this week, what action the Irish government is willing to take to protect the rights and safety of the Irish citizens resident on the Garvaghy Road.''

The initiative was taken following information that the Irish government is withholding permission for Fianna Fáil to organise a delegation of observers to the Garvaghy Road during the first fortnight of July.

Meanwhile, a powerful, indepoendent Canadian delegation will monitor Orange marches in the Six Counties this July. The delegation, organised by the Toronto-based Information on Ireland Campaign, will be led by former Canadian Solicitor General Warren Allmand, president of the International Center for Human Rights and Democratic Development.


Loyalist attacks follow Orange parade

The homes of nationalists in North Belfast were attacked in the early hours of Saturday morning, 19 June, following Friday night's `mini' Tour of the North by the Orange Order.

Homes in North Queen Street, Lime Court, Carrick Hill and Donegall Street were attacked by masked youths only hours after the Orange parade had passed through North Belfast from the Limestone Road to Clifton Park Avenue.

North Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly has warned of the danger of a ``summer of intimidation''. He said that families narrowly escaped injury as bricks smashed through double-glazing in the front room of the house in North Queen Street, with shattered glass spraying an area where a young child had only moved from, at around 1am. The home of an 80-year old woman in Carrick Hill was attacked at about 4am.

Kelly added that nationalist residents in most of North Belfast had been ``sealed in'' for 5 hours by an RUC `security' operation that lasted from 6pm till 11pm on Friday night. Two men appeared in court this Monday charged with causing the damage to the homes along the Tour of the North route.

Parade ruling raises tension on Springfield Road

By Roisin Cox

Springfield Road residents have criticised the 21 June ruling by the Parades Commission banning their peaceful protest against an Orange Parade through the area on June 26. The Parades Commission ruling, however, has not placed any restriction on the route of the parade, which will pass by many nationalist homes.

The Parades Commission ruling stated that there ``is no practical alternative'' to the route, a claim refuted by the Springfield residents, who argue that a viable alternative exists and that they have actually travelled the alternative route with members of the Parade Commission in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

The Parades Commission's claim that the residents' protest leads to disruption on the Springfield Road was described by residents' spokesperson John McGivern as ``ridiculous, when in effect the parade leads to a virtual standstill of community life on the Springfield Road on an annual basis''.

Resdidents' spokesperson Frances McAuley has also criticised the Parades Commission, saying that the residents have repeatedly called upon the Orange Order to engage in dialogue in order to resolve the situation without success, ``yet year after year the decision goes in their favour'', a further example of residents' concerns being ignored.

Ormeau Residents fear Drumcree style standoff

By Roisin Cox

The possibility of a Drumcree-type standoff at the Ormeau Road is a possibility if the Orange Twelfth parade through the area is banned, senior Orangeman David McNarry has been reported as saying.

According to reports, McNarry claims that banning the contentious parade on the Ormeau Road will lead to a standoff that will overshadow Drumcree.

The Parades Commission has not yet decided if the parade will go ahead or be rerouted, but members of the Orange Order are saying that they plan to assemble on the Ormeau Road whatever the decision, sparking fears of violent clashes.

Lower Ormeau Concerned Community (LOCC) spokesperson Gerard Rice says he fears the Orange Order plans to blockade the Ormeau community as they have on the Garvaghy community: ``The Orange Order seems determined to create another siege situation and all the violence and damage that is entailed on the Ormeau Road.''

Despite repeated attempts made by the LOCC to resolve the dispute through face to face talks Orangemen have refused any invitation for dialogue. According to Rice, the Orange Order's plans for a standoff reflect their intention to force the parade through using ``tactics of threat and intimidation'', rather than by reaching a resolution through dialogue.

The LOCC has called on the Parades Commission to issue a ban on all Orange marches planned for the Lower Ormeau area. It have also called for support from nationalists in the run up to the contentious parade and plans a ``legitimate, peaceful and effective'' sit down protest if the parade is allowed to continue.

As An Phoblacht goes to print, we hear that two Orange Districts, Sandy Row and East Belfast, have applied to march down the Lower Ormeau Road on 12 July. Neither district usually marches down the Ormeau and the applications are seen as a further attempt to heighten tensions and pressurise Ormeau nationalists.


Marchers urged to avoid Greysteel

By Roisin Cox

The so called Protestant civil rights march from Derry to Portadown scheduled to leave Derry's Guildhall Square on Thursday 24 June is being described by nationalists as ``nothing more than a sectarian coat-trailing exercise''.

And with the loyalist marchers due to pass through the County Derry village of Greysteel, within yards of the infamous Loyalist ``trick or treat'' massacre in the Rising Sun bar which left 8 people dead and 13 injured in 1993, their disregard for the dead of a loyalist attack underlines the sectarian nature of the march.

The march, dubbed the ``Long March'', will also pass through several flashpoints on its 117-mile route, including Ballymoney, scene of the brutal killing of the Quinn brothers at the height of the Drumcree stand-off last year and Lurgan, where community tension is high following the killing of Rosemary Nelson.

Already nationalists living in predominantly unionist towns like Limavady and Coleraine are expressing their fears the march will provoke sectarian trouble.

The march has been likened by the organisers to Martin Luther King's march in Washington in 1963 when 200,000 people demanded civil rights for Black Americans, but this march is another attempt by unionists to assert their supremacy over nationalists and inflame the situation in the run up to Drumcree.

The Pat Finucane Centre has called upon the march organisers to go through Greysteel by bus but has stressed that ``the marchers are not being asked to reroute the parade but rather drive through Greysteel as both a mark of respect for the victims of the loyalist atrocity and to ease community tension''.

However, with organisers' spokesperson Jonathan Bell stating on 16 June that ``no one should be offended if the march passes through nationalist areas'', it seems unlikely that the marchers will heed the plea from the Pat Finucane Centre. Feeder marches are also scheduled to pass through the nationalist villages of Bellaghy and Dunloy. The march, which the organisers claim is intended to highlight Protestant grievances on issues such as the Good Friday Agreement and the Peace Process has been widely condemned, with both residents' groups and the Presbyterian Church calling for it to be abandoned.

Meanwhile, Church of Ireland bishop Harold Miller, who called for the march to be abandoned, has been criticised by march organisers and told to ``stand up for people who have been ethnically cleansed''. Jonathan Bell accused Harold Miller of being ``out of step'' and rejected the claim that the march will result in violent clashes.

The public row comes at a time when Bell announced plans for ``phase two'' of the Protestant Civil Rights campaign. A second march is to run from 19 to 29 September, with a third series of marches planned after the millennium. Bell has claimed that the series of marches are designed to highlight the ``human rights abuses that Protestant people had endured over the years'' and that the marches had been planned legally and were not designed to create trouble.


Corporation in Garvaghy call


It was an historic but understated occasion as four newly elected republican councillors entered the inaugural meeting of Dublin Corporation on Monday, 21 June, through a door over which hung the British Royal Arms.

The British insignia, which had previously hung over a chemist shop on Westmoreland Street, was one of the exhibits in Dublin's Civic Museum, where the Corporation was meeting due to renovations at its usual home in the Mansion House.

To the immediate left as the councillors entered stood another exhibit - Admiral Nelson's head, the only surviving part of the monument, blown up by republicans in 1966, which once towered over the centre of Dublin City. The irony was not lost and raised a few smirks from the Sinn Féin delegation, who with greatly increased political representation, intend to pursue an agenda of change which will also leave its mark on the city in the years ahead.

The meeting began amid loud chanting as a large crowd outside protested against the eviction of tenants from St Ultan's flats in Charlemont Street on the south side of the city. The protesters included the local Sinn Féin representative Daithí Doolan.

For the first time, Sinn Féin now forms a group of its own on Dublin City Council with Christy Burke as group leader. Despite prior media speculation of a Fianna Fáil/Sinn Féin pact on the council, the election of the Lord Mayor was worked out beforehand in a deal between Fianna Fáil and Labour which sees the position being shared between the two parties over the next five years.

Following a farewell speech from the outgoing Lord Mayor, Fine Gael's Joe Doyle, Labour's Mary Freehill was elected to the position for the year head with 34 votes The only other candidate, Fine Gael's Ruairí McGinley, received nine votes while Sinn Féin, the Green Party and the Independents abstained.

In her acceptance speech, Freehill said she was glad that the position of Lord Mayor would be occupied by a woman and a socialist. Homelessness, the housing crisis, the drugs problem and disadvantage were the issues she said she wished to tackle in the year ahead.

On behalf of the Sinn Féin group, Christy Burke welcomed Freehill's highlighting of these issues and expressed hope that they would be tackled seriously. He pointed out that children were sleeping rough on the streets directly opposite the Mansion House where the City Council normally sits and that many areas of the city remained ravaged by disadvantage and poverty and the attendant problems of drug addiction and anti-social behaviour. Sinn Féin, he said, would continue to highlight these issues and demand that they be addressed.

Fellow Sinn Féin Councillor Nicky Kehoe also welcomed the sentiments contained in the new Lord Mayor's addresss but added that on behalf of the working class people of his constituency he wanted to express the hope that there would be less ``waffle'' at council level and more ``action'' on these serious problems.

The first of two Sinn Féin emergency motions dealt with the issue of evictions at St Ultan's flats and called for the City Manager to direct that the buildings be purchased by the city and the tenants rehoused. Two almost identical motions were tabled by Labour and Fianna Fáil and there was unanimous agreement on this issue.

The only other issue dealt with by the council was another emergency motion from the Sinn Féin group proposing that all group leaders on the council seek a meeting with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and First Minister David Trimble to see how the Drumcree issue could be defused in light of increasing sectarianism, mounting loyalist violence and the continuing siege of the Garvaghy Road. Again, the motion met with all-party agreement.

With this first historic meeting over, the Sinn Féin delegation emerged to meet tenants of St Ultan's and express the party's continued support.


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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