THE GARVAGHY Road Residents Coalition in Portadown has accused the Parades Commission of cowardice for failing to classify an Orange march to Drumcree, due to take place next Saturday September 23rd, as contentious.
A spokesperson for the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition said:
"The GRRC, local Catholic clergy, the SDLP and Sinn Féin had all asked that restrictions be imposed on this Orange march. That such a united front had all sought restrictions on this Orange march makes the Commission's decision even more ridiculous. The failure of the Parades Commission to classify next Saturday's Orange march as contentious, which means absolutely no restrictions will be placed upon it, is nothing but complete moral cowardice.
"The Orange Order has organised this march to mark what they see as 3000 days since the Drumcree march was rerouted in 1998. It should never be forgotten that opposition to Orange marches in Portadown cost the lives of innocent Catholics like Darren Murray (1996), Robert Hamill (1997), Michael McGoldrick (1997), Bernadatte Martin (1997), the three young Quinn boys burned to death in July 1998, Frankie O'Reilly (1998)(Catholic RUC man) - lawyer for the GRRC (1999), Elizabeth O'Neill (1999) - all as a result of the actions of the Orange Order at Drumcree and its supporters.
"It should be obvious to even the most cursory of observers that there has not been a continuous Orange presence at Drumcree, and that this march and rally is viewed by the vast majority of the Catholic community in Portadown as an attempt by the Orange Order to re-ignite inter-communal conflict in Portadown.
"This latter point was reinforced by the comments made by a senior District Officer of Portadown LOL No.1 and reported in The News Letter on August 29th 2006. Other than seeking to re-ignite such conflict, there can be no other motivation for the making of the following comments:- 'We would also like to see support from brethren across the Province, reminiscent of the Drumcree protest in the late 1990s we are calling all other members of the Orange Order to come along and show their solidarity with the protest that stands for civil and religious liberties for all.'
"The route which this potentially explosive march will take to Drumcree is along the peaceline at Corcrain Road, past Craigwell Avenue where Catholic families were forced from their homes as a result of Orange Order intimidation and violence, past Catholic homes along Charles Street and at the lower end of Obins Street, past more Catholic homes at Ballyoran Hill and directly past the local Catholic church before passing even more homes along the Dungannon Road.
" For the Commission to say that this march is not contentious is probably one of the most ridiculous and nonsensical decisions ever arrived at by any of the three Parades Commission which have been adudicating on parades since 1998.
"When this present Commission was appointed, we stated that it was far from independent, that it was essentially a packed jury, and that it certainly would not enjoy the confidence of Catholics, Nationalists or Republicans in Portadown. This refusal by the Commission to classify next week's march as contentious has destroyed whatever thin shreds of credibility it had left.
"Let there be no mistake, there is a lot of anger over this and no amount of PR spin by the Parades Commission chairperson, Roger Poole, or any other Commission member will defuse that anger."
For further information or comment, contact Breandán Mac Cionnaith or Joe Duffy on 0044 78178 68591 Footnote
When the British government announced the new appointments to the Parades Commission at the end of last year, the GRRC sought a judicial review of the appointment of two Portadown Orangemen to the Commission.
The GRRC won the initial court case,but the British secretary of state, Peter Hain, appealed the High Court ruling. At the High Court of Appeal, the British secretary of state won by a 2:1 majority.
Of four judges who heard both cases, two ruled in favour of the GRRC and two ruled in favour of the British government. The GRRC, saying that they are prepared to exhaust very legal avenue in order to ensure an independent Parades Commission, have asked the British House of Lords to make a further ruling on the appointments.
Without wishing to pre-judge any outcome, the GRRC has stated that it will go to the European Court of Human Rights, if necessary, in order to protect the right of people in their community to live free from sectarian harassment as promised under the Good Friday agreement and which both the British and Irish governments are pledged to uphold.
For background information visit The Garvaghy Road Residents' Coalition website at: http://www.garvaghyroad.org/ or
Contact the Parades Commission (Roger Poole, chairperson):
The Parades Commission, Windsor House, 9 - 15 Bedford Street, Belfast BT2 7EL
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