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Letter from the Orange Order to the Catholic Residents of the Garvaghy Road, 4 June 1997

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Research: Fionnuala McKenna
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Text of the letter delivered to the Catholic residents of the Garvaghy Road by the Orange Order on 4 June 1997

Dear Resident,

We are writing to all the residents of the Garvaghy Road area to explain our position about the annual walk by members of Portadown District Orangemen from the service of worship at Drumcree parish church in July.

This is a sincere and genuine attempt to deal with the many misconceptions concerning the walk and there are a number of points we would like to make for your information:

1. The service on the first Sunday in July is partly to remember those who died at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. We pay tribute to all those of both communities who dies for the cause of peace and justice.

2. The Orange Order is traditionally a parading organisation. We see our parade as an outward witness to our sincere belief in the Reformed Faith. For that reason, we see attacks on our parades as both a denial of civil liberties and an attack on our religion. For us, this is as distressing as the disgraceful protest - which we unreservedly condemn - outside Harryville chapel.

3. In the interests of harmony, mutual respect and reconciliation the Orange Order has acknowledged objections raised by the nationalist community and has already implemented the following principles for the Drumcree Church parade:

a. The number of parades in the area has been reduced from ten to one in the past ten years.

b. Only members of Portadown District parade.

c. No bands take part which could be perceived as antagonistic to our nationalist neighbours. Accordion bands lead the parade playing hymn music that is common to both traditions.

d. The Orangemen walk four abreast so that the walk will pass in any one given point in less than five minutes.

e. The Order marshals and disciplines its own members to ensure there will be no confrontation on our part. If this was reciprocated, then there would only be a need for a minimal police presence.

f. The right to walk peacefully and in a dignified manner and the right to protest in a peaceful and dignified manner should not be denied to anyone.

It is the sincere hope of the Orange Order that the vast majority of the people of Portadown will work together in a new spirit of tolerance to defeat extremists who want confrontation this summer.

As a matter of principle, we cannot be involved in talks with convicted terrorists because of what they have inflicted on our community. But we do want to listen to all those within the community who want to promote harmony and mutual respect among the people of Portadown and would welcome constructive comments which should be sent to the following address:

Co Armagh Grand Orange Lodge, c/o House of Orange, 65 Dublin Road, Belfast BT2 7HE.

We sincerely hope that this letter will go some way towards building up intercommunity confidence and respect so that we can look forward not only to a peaceful summer but to a more peaceful and tolerant era for all the people of our land.

Yours faithfully,

Denis J Watson, William T Bingham, County Grand Master, County Grand Chaplain.

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