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The Parades Commission's Determination in Relation to the Drumcree Church Parade on 5 July 1998

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Text: Parades Commission
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The Parades Commission's Determination in Relation to Portadown
District LOL No. 1 Church Parade on 5 July 1998

1. The following is the decision of the Parades Commission in relation to the Portadown District LOL No 1 due to take place on July 5 1998.

Section 8(1) of the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 provides that:

"The Commission may issue a determination in respect of a proposed public procession imposing on the persons organising or taking part in it such conditions as the Commission considers necessary".
2. We have noted the details provided on the Form 11/1 dated April 1 1998 about the parade proposed by Portadown District LOL No 1 in Portadown on July 5 1998.

3. We have considered the need to issue a determination as outlined above, against the factors described in our Guidelines document.

4. The Commission's determination is that proposed July 5 1998 Portadown District LOL No 1 parade is prohibited from entering that part of the notified parade route between the junction of High Street and Wood-house Street and the junction of Obins Street and Charles Street, or any part of that route.

The parade shall process from its point of departure at Carleton Street into Church Street, Market Street. and High Street to the West Street and into Charles Street. It shall then process along Charles Street to the Dungannon Road-Moy Road roundabout, along the Dungannon Road to the Rector's Turn, Drumcree Road to Drumcree Church.

5. The parade is also prohibited from proceeding beyond Drumcree Parish Church, Drumcree Road, or entering that part of the notified route which includes the entire length of the Garvaghy Road including Parkmount and Victoria Terrace.

6. In addition, the following conditions are imposed on the proposed Portadown District LOL No 1 on July 5 1998:

a. When the procession is in progress there are no undue stoppages or delays.

b. The organiser shall arrange for the presence of an adequate number of stewards to ensure that all parade participants act in an orderly manner.

c. The organisers shall ensure that only the four notified bands, namely Edgarstown Accordion Band. Pride of the Birches Band, Star of David Accordion Band and Mavemacullen Accordion Band, shall accompany the procession.

d. The organisers shall ensure that the procession returns from Drumcree Parish Church following the outward route in compliance with the conditions outlined in paragraph 4 above, or disperses after the church service at Drumcree Parish Church.

e. The organiser shall ensure that these conditions are brought to the attention of all participants at the assembly point.

f. The organiser shall ensure that all directions by police in relation to the parade are promptly obeyed.

Unlike the other locations on which we have expressed a broad view on parades, we are not considering the whole range of Loyal Order parades in the Portadown area, but rather one highly significant parade: the annual July Drumcree Church parade.

We use the term 'significant' advisedly: the sheer scale of the conflict surrounding the dispute over the return route from Drumcree Church along the Garvaghy Road in previous years and the. depth of emotion it provoked was the primary motivation for the Government to set up the North Review Team, on whose recommendations the Parades Commission was established.

We have heard references throughout the many locations of our evidence-gathering to the importance of this parade in terms of its impact on disputes in other areas.

We have also heard that the 1996 stand-off at Drumcree was the event which spawned antagonism towards loyalist parades in many locations throughout Northern Ireland.

Given the historic pattern of disputes over parades in Portadown, the significance of the area in relation to the genesis of Orangeism and the erosion of elements of traditional routes as a result of past disputes over parades, its status at the pinnacle of a hierarchy of contentious locations is hardly surprising.

This is further exacerbated by divisions within the town itself, where the nationalist residents' of the housing estates along the Garvaghy Road suffer from considerable social deprivation.

Their clear perception is that they do not enjoy equal status with their Protestant counterparts.

As our earlier analysis of the evidence suggests, recent experience of the parade itself (its numbers, the manner in which it has been conducted and its duration) is not the main source of antagonism towards it. Rather, it is the context in which it occurs that generates resentment.

This is characterised by the apparent assumption that it should take place without any reference to or recognition of the feelings of the local nationalist community.

In Portadown, there is deep resentment between the two communities. That resentment seems to us to have deeper roots in much wider issues.

Such issues include the apparent disparity between the socioeconomic status of Protestants and Catholics in the area; and relate to events, such as the bombing of Portadown town centre in 1993, the murders of taxi driver Michael McGoldrick in 1996, and of Robert Hamill in Portadown town centre last year, and of two policemen in Lurgan last June, all of which have exacerbated tensions between the communities; and to the manner of the apparent triumphalist display by unionist politicians which negated the benefits of the agreement brokered in 1995.

The murder of Billy Wright in December 1997 and subsequent retaliatory murders, the bombing of Portadown town centre on February 23, 1998, and the murder of Adrian Lamph can only have further deepened divisions.

Those deepened divisions were clearly evident in the conflict surrounding the Junior Orange Order parade along a small part of the Garvaghy Road earlier this year.

All of this militates against the creation of a climate for conciliation and is certainly not a scenario in which we would envisage the prospect of any form of accommodation between the people concerned in the short term.

This leaves us with the invidious task of making a decision which does not hinge purely on the factors of threat of disorder and serious disruption as did those decisions taken in the past.

More significantly, it turns on the extent of the impact of allowing a parade to return or, alternatively, preventing it from returning along the Garvaghy Road on what is already the most hostile of community relationships.

Clearly, while both parties maintain their current stance, either course of action will result in a downturn in relationships which we fear might be manifested in physical violence.

In reaching our decision, we have focused on what we describe in our Guidelines document as. the 'Broader Context'. In particular we refer to:

"Where there has been a year on year history of conflict surrounding the parade, the Commission will take into account the demonstrable impact of decisions taken regarding that parade in previous years, not only n the immediate community but on the wider Northern Ireland community".
We do not underestimate the impact on the Protestant community, particularly in Portadown, of' a decision which would effectively prevent the parade from proceeding back along its traditional route down the Garvaghy Road.

The strength of feeling within that community and the wider Protestant community was patently clear in the 1995 and 1996 standoffs.

An accommodation was achieved in 1995 albeit that it was, in the eyes of nationalists, subsequently undermined by what took place immediately afterwards.

Those events, and the circumstances in which the parades have taken place in the two successive years have thrown all sections of the community in Northern Ireland into turmoil and have left no individual untouched.

Given the absence of any positive movement towards accommodation, we cannot see at this stage how a parade could proceed again this year down the Garvaghy Road without having a serious adverse impact on community relationships, both locally and more widely across Northern Ireland.

We stress that we have not reached this decision lightly and that it does not imply an erosion of the rights of Orangemen in Portadown. It is taken in anticipation of the cumulative adverse effect on the nationalist community, both in Portadown and across Northern Ireland as a whole, of successive parades proceeding in the fact of such total opposition.

We would also want to stress that our decision relates to 1998 alone. There are many elements of the Drumcree church parade which are not at odds with most of the factors in our Guidelines. For example. it is a church parade, it has been demonstrated that it can take place in an orderly fashion, and the Garvaghy Road is an arterial route.

However, we see the need to break the cycle in 1998. The opportunity provided by such a break should be seized' by political, community and religious leaders to demonstrate greater responsibility and to make strident efforts to bridge the chasm between both sides of the community, so laying the foundations for a more tolerant atmosphere in the future.

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