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27 July 2000 Edition

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Drumcree shows that we need future together as equals

The events surrounding the Drumcree parade issue clearly shows the nature of the state we all live in. At the heart of this issue, is not in my view, the principle of the right to march in relation to the orange Order. Rather it is about unionism and in particular orange unionism recognising and ac cepting the right of nationalists in places like the Garvaghy and Ormeau Roads to live in this state as equals with the same rights and entitlements as everyone else.

Up to now the Orange Order have refused to accept this, indeed they seem intent on destroying the very state they live in rather than give any recognition to the rights of nationalists. it is almost as if it would be better to destroy all rather than concede to nationalists as having the same rights as unionists. It would appear that to the Orange Order that nationalists in this state, do not have the same rights as the rest of the people who live in this state. Its as, if you like, the nationalists of Garvaghy Road are a non people, who certainly do not need to be consulted or asked when the Orange Order want to march.

This rather than the right of the Orange Order goes to the very heart of not just the issue of the parade at Drumcree, bu of the conflict in this state. This is why the Good Friday Agreement and the type of change that is envisages must be implemented. Because essentially what the Agreement is about is creating a level playing field. Where everyone has equal rights and there is an end to second class citizenship. It is about ensuring that people have the right to freedom from sectarian harassment. That mutual respect and civil rights are upheld. In this context those who insist on marching in areas like Garvaghy Road are against the type of change that the Good Friday Agreement outlines. For them the old agenda of unionist and orange supremacy must be retained and even fought for as we have all witnessed dover the last number of days.

Howeve,r after nearly 80 years of partition, where unionism and the Orange Order held a privileged and supremacist position in this state, change is now taking place. The days of unionist domination and the years of second class citizenship for nationalists in areas like the Garvaghy and Ormeau roads are over and gone forever. Moreover, the creation of a level playing field means the issue of marches in places like Drumcree can no longer be allowed to follow the old agenda of no change, no recognition of nationalist rights and no dialogue with the residents.

Those who have come out onto the street in response to the calls from the Orange Order to support them over the Drumcree parade are clearly intent on bringing down the Good Friday Agreement. From them like the Orange Order the creation of a level playing field means that they will have to deal with nationalists on equal terms and with everyone having equal rights. Moreover, it means that in a place like the Garvaghy Road the Orange Order will have no absolute right to march.

Those within the Orange Order have been allowed along with those shadowy elements within loyalism to try and bring a halt to the type of changes the Good Friday Agreement signals. They will not succeed, they might slow down the pace of change, but they cannot and must not be allowed to put a stop to the necessary changes that must come about if we are to see the end of conflict in this state.

It is up to those within the unionist and Protestant community to ensure that they do not succeed. Civic unionism, the Protestant Churches, community groups and business leaders all within the unionist community must join with the rest of the pro agreement parties and ensure we do not return to the old agenda of no change. They must help bring about the culture of change, of equality, of mutual respect, of a future together as equals. Change is difficult for everyone to come to terms with, especially for those within the unionist community. Dialogue can be the anchor of change in bringing about the changes provided for in the Agreement and in resolving the issue of the parade at Drumcree. But change must come if we want a new beginning and an end to conflict.

Councillor Paul Butler.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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