18/06/2010

Drumcree Parade May Be Ruled Illegal

A loyal order parade that was at the heart of deadly NI-wide disturbances for years is threatening to burst back onto the front pages.

Co Armagh-based Orangemen are threatening to walk to Drumcree church in Portadown this year for the annual Somme Commemoration service without official permission.

This is the first time since 1998 that the Orange Order has failed to notify NI's Parades Commission that it wants to parade there this July.

The order has confirmed no form was submitted before this month's deadline even though it is required to submit the form as notice of its intention to parade.

While violent confrontation has been avoided in recent years, even though Orange District No 1 continues to protest the banning of its traditional return parade via the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road, the move has significantly raised the temperature.

That is especially so as this week's decision by the Parades Commission to ban two feeder parades from passing a contentious route in north Belfast this Friday has raised marchers' hackles.

The Parades Commission has restricted parades by the Earl of Erne LOL 647 and the Ligoniel True Blues from passing the Crumlin Road at the Ardoyne shops as part of the Tour of the North parade tonight, in view of the marchers and police being attacked by nationalists in recent years.
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But the Portadown Orangemen say that they are more determined than ever to complete the return march into Portadown "via our traditional route" (Garvaghy Road), following the religious service in Drumcree parish.

They have applied every Sunday since the homeward march was banned in 1998 and hold a demonstration at Drumcree Bridge at the foot of The Hill.

A Sinn Féin MLA, John O'Dowd has accused the Orange Order of "deliberately raising tensions" after they failed to file for the outward part of the Drumcree parade, indicating that they would instead organise an illegal march.

The Upper Bann representative said: "In what has been a good week for the peace process with the publication of Saville and the visit of the Protestant church leaders to the Bogside we see the rejectionists within the Orange Order stepping forward to make their contribution.

"Instead of trying to build relationships and ease tensions in a very deliberate move the Orange Order have decided to try and reignite the Drumcree dispute," he commented.

Meanwhile, an 'equality' issue is marring a bid by Co Antrim Orangemen to erect colourful bunting to celebrate the cultural aspect of the 12th July pageant.

Members are to meet with the Equality Commission in a last-minute attempt to resolve Larne's annual bunting dispute.

The council have again refused to allow the erection of the red, white and blue bunting in time for the marching season.

This had been going ahead for over three decades, but, due to fears over being the subject of legal action on 'equality' legislation, it has not done so since 2008.

(BMcC/GK)

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