Category: Archive

Garvaghy Road walk talk goes nowhere

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

PORTADOWN, Co. Armagh — Orange Order leaders say that unless the Drumcree marching issue is settled to their satisfaction by the end of June, they will cut themselves off from all efforts to find a solution and refuse to speak to the British government or the RUC.

They are also planning a "Long March" around Counties Antrim, Down and Armagh in the week leading up to Drumcree Sunday — which this year falls on July 4 — to protest at the Parades Commission decision to re-route their 1998 march away from the nationalist area of Portadown.

The UUP leader David Trimble had a fourth round of talks with local representatives of the nationalist residents on Monday, with more meetings planned for next week. Portadown Orangemen were again not represented because they refuse to speak to the Garvaghy residents’ representatives.

Nationalists remain doubtful about apparent moves by the Orange Order to avoid a mass demonstration at Drumcree this year. Orangemen from across Northern Ireland had planned to travel to Portadown, instead of holding their annual 12th of July demonstrations locally.

The plan had raised the specter of up to 100,000 loyalists gathering at Drumcree church to demand the right to march down the Garvaghy Road. But although Orangemen from Belfast, County Down and County Tyrone will now hold their demonstrations in their own districts, they have left the door open for members to travel to Portadown later.

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Garvaghy Road residents’ spokesman Breandan Mac Cionnaith said he would wait to see if the decision was ratified by the Grand Lodge. "The county lodges have said they will have their 12th demonstrations as normal, but they have still given permission for lodges to go to Portadown. There doesn’t seem to be any big change there."

He also said that if they had all descended on Portadown, they would have voluntarily have forgone marching in other nationalist areas where they are not wanted, such as the Lower Ormeau Road in Belfast, Dunloy, Bellaghy and Newtownbutler.

SDLP assembly member Brid Rodgers described the Orange Order’s statement as a welcome development. "I hope it’s the beginning of the creation of a better atmosphere," she said. "I hope it will lead to the beginning of dialogue and the winding down of confrontation."

The DUP leader, the Rev. Ian Paisley, has alleged that the British government will offer the Orange Order the right to march down the Garvaghy Road in return for the Ulster Unionists accepting Sinn Fein into a power sharing executive without IRA decommissioning.

Sinn Fein has said it would refuse to accept any proposal that goes against the freely expressed wishes of the people of Portadown. Party sources have scoffed at suggestions they would be prepared to accept such a deal to get themselves onto the power-sharing Executive.

The Ballymena Times, meanwhile, is reporting that the Harryville picket of Our Lady’s Catholic church in the town has been "postponed". Loyalists staged the long-running picket at the re-routing of Orange parades in the nationalist village of Dunloy, 15 miles from Ballymena.

Meanwhile, the family of Robert Hamill, the Catholic man beaten to death in Portadown two years ago, says they’re hurt and angered by comments from the Ulster Unionist MP, Ken Maginnis who claimed that Hamill had been "sympathetic" to the IRA.

Diane Hamill said Maginnis didn’t know anything about her brother. She’s campaigning for a full inquiry into claims RUC officers failed to come to her brother’s assistance as he was being beaten and that the family were taking legal advice and had nothing to fear from the truth.

A 39-year-old Catholic workman from Magherafelt, Co. Derry, was shot and seriously wounded on Wednesday, May 12, by a loyalist gunman at a building site in Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim. The victim was hit in the chest and leg. The shooting is the 80th loyalist attack on nationalists since the Good Friday peace agreement was signed over one year ago. RUC sources said they believed the UDA was responsible, although a new group, calling itself the Protestant Defense Force, claimed responsibility.

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