Orangemen refuse to fill in Drumcree application
By Victor Gordon
PORTADOWN Orangemen have raised the stakes ahead of the annual Drumcree parade – by threatening to walk to the church without permission.
For the first time, the Orange District No 1 has refused to fill in the official application – the so called 'eleven-bar-one' form – either for the outward march or the banned return parade via the Garvaghy Road.
District secretary David Jones confirmed: "We have not submitted the form. The 28-day deadline passed last Sunday, and that's all we are saying."
And district master Darryl Hewitt refused to comment.
If no form is submitted, the annual outward parade would be illegal.
Last night, parades sources were hoping that the situation could be resolved.
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 church.
It is the first time since the Drumcree row erupted in the mid-1990s that the Portadown District has refused to submit the forms.
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 highly-placed Orange source told the News Letter: "Especially since the turn of the Millennium we have done everything strictly within the law and have got nowhere.
"But in the last few months, republicans have taken part in illegal parades and no action has been taken – like the demonstrations at Maghaberry, the Easter parade in Armagh, and the eirigi walk and demonstration in Belfast last November in protest again the 'Welcome Home' parade of the British troops.
"Brendan McKenna of the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition (GRRC) took part in the eirigi walk and no action whatsoever was taken by the authorities.
"The Orange District has done everything by the book, and we've tried time after time to have direct talks with the GRRC, but we've been completely ignored."
Mr McKenna commented: "I've heard via the commission that the 'eleven-bar-one' has not been submitted, but it's a matter between them and the Orange District.
"Obviously, the Orangemen are making a show of it all - grabbing the headlines - as this was likely to be the last time the commission was due rule on Drumcree with new legislation on the way."
And he confirmed the GRRC had no plans to speak to the Orange side.
A spokesman for the parades commission confirmed the form had not been submitted "for whatever reason".
He added: "It isn't like the Portadown District to be late with their forms. If there are reasons for late applications, we would view them sympathetically and would probably make the same determination as in recent years."
This means that the outward parade to Drumcree from the centre of Portadown - via Northway, Corcrain and the Rector's Turns - would be allowed, but the return parade via the Garvaghy Road re-routed.
The Orange source said: "It like a stuck record, so there's no point in applying."
Here we go again! Is this the same “harmless Protestant fraternal organization” that tried to “make nice” in Washington, DC three years ago? If so, it will be very interesting to see if they attempt to forcefully conduct an unlawful march on July 4th. If they do, will they still receive the support and encouragement of the Stormont government for an unlawful march in Portadown in 2010 as they did for their participation in a “folk festival” in Washington, DC in 1997?