General Election

Nationalists warn British government against allowing Garvaghy Road march

Breandán MacCionnaith on the Garvaghy Road in Portadown
Connla Young

NATIONALIST residents in Portadown have warned the British government against any political deal that would allow the Orange Order to march down Garvaghy Road.

They were speaking after Portadown Orange lodge urged the new DUP-backed administration to place the parading issue high on their agenda.

Orangemen have been holding regular protests at Drumcree since they were banned from walking along the Garvaghy Road in 1998.

The dispute, which began in 1995, sparked violence across the north after the RUC forcefully removed protesting nationalists from the road to facilitate the march from Drumcree Church to Portadown town centre.

The Parades Commission is due to decide on this year's parade next week.

There has been speculation that an agreement between the DUP and Conservative Party to keep Theresa May in power could include the abolition of the Parades Commission - which many unionists are opposed to.

Garvaghy Road residents spokesman Breandán MacCionnaith claimed any change to the approach to parading could have an impact on how far-right groups intent on marching through sensitive areas in Britain are policed.

“If you tamper with the law here where does that leave you in England with the English Defence League and National Front?” he said

“You would open a can of worms that would be hard to close again.”

In a statement after last week's election, Portadown LOL No 1 congratulated unionist candidates and noted the "invitation from the prime minister to the DUP to support her government".

“We trust that the parading issue especially in Portadown will be high on the agenda for the new government,” it said.

“It is clear that the endeavour of the orange family to maximise the unionist votes paid dividends and consequently the DUP has been given the opportunity and responsibility to deliver for the people of Northern Ireland.

“We trust that they are successful in promoting the values of the unionist people and the Orange fraternity. We wish them well in the weeks and months that lie ahead."

A spokeswoman for the Parades Commission said its role is to “adjudicate on parades which may give rise to sensitivities”.

“The criteria for consideration by the commission are the impacts of parades and protests on community relationships, community life and the potential for public disorder.

“The commission confines all its communications to its legal and statutory role.”

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