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Bloody Sunday, election, Irish, Ireland, British, Ulster, Unionist, Sinn Féin, SDLP, Ahern, Blair, Irish America

Orangemen want Commission to arrange meeting with Garvaghy residents

(Liam Clarke, Sunday Times)

The Orange Order in Portadown has threatened legal action against the Parades Commission if it does not arrange a meeting with the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition (GRRC) which opposes its annual Drumcree march.

Traditionally the Orangemen refused to meet residents or the commission, calling it an undemocratic quango and demanding its dissolution. Since October, it has been asking the commission privately to arrange a meeting with the residents.

Darryl Hewitt, the district master of the Order, said that he regretted not speaking to the residents 10 years ago when the dispute first arose. The Order refused to meet residents because one of their representatives was Breandan Mac Cionnaith (Brendan McKenna), a former IRA prisoner. "If we knew then what we now know, we would have met McKenna right away," Hewitt said. "We accept that it was partially, and maybe mainly, our fault but we are ready to meet now."

The reassessment underlines the Order's new strategy of resolving the Drumcree issue through dialogue with nationalists and republicans.

Each Sunday it holds a protest meeting on Drumcree hill and formally attempts to complete the march. To date it has been refused permission by the police and the Parades Commission. Today (Sunday) it will discuss sending a letter directly to the Residents Coalition, having already written on June 26. Last Tuesday they met the Parades Commission. "It was a fairly rough meeting; we felt we were being stalled," said Hewitt. "We have everything with a solicitor and he is taking advice from barristers."

This year Portadown Orangemen submitted the names of eight possible mediators, or neutral chairmen, but it says the commission has not so far passed on the names to the GRRC. They include Albert Reynolds, the former taoiseach, and John Major, the former British prime minister.

August 17, 2007
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This article first appeared in the Sunday Times on August 12, 2007.

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