Residents 'not told' of Garvaghy Road march service plan

Connla Young

THE Parades Commission has come in for criticism after it emerged that loyalists plan to hold a religious service on the Garvaghy Road during a controversial parade this weekend.

Nationalists in the area reacted angrily after the Parades Commission gave the go-ahead for up to 200 loyalists and two bands to walk along a section of the majority nationalist road for the first time since 1997.

It emerged during a review into the original decision yesterday that in addition to the march, organisers also intend to hold a prayer service during the "dedication and unfurling" of a new arch by Parkmount Arch Committee.

Residents say that the Parades Commission made no reference to the planned service on its website and failed to inform them during a meeting last week.

The parade will pass 'Victoria Terrace' which nationalists have always regarded as part of the Garvaghy Road.

While junior members of the Orange Order take part in low-key marches once a year, the last time the main order walked along the disputed route was 1997 at the height of the Drumcree crisis.

In its determination the Parades Commission said that the planned event is a "newly notified parade" and confirmed "there continues to be a strain on community relations" in the area.

Members of the Garvaghy Road Residents' Coalition and SDLP met separately with the Parades Commission yesterday while Sinn Féin made a written submission.

Residents' spokesman Breandan Mac Cionnaith said: "There has been no information previously disclosed anywhere.

"That is a major factor - people should have been made aware."

Mr Mac Cionnaith said that Garvaghy residents are due to meet later today to discuss the issue.

The parade plan comes a year after nationalist residents objected to an Orange Order prayer service in a park close to Garvaghy Road just before a 'Mini Twelfth' march was due to be held in the town.

Upper Bann assembly member Dolores Kelly said she believed loyalists in the Co Armagh town were deliberately drawing attention to the area.

"This is now typical of Portadown district coming up to the main parade at Drumcree," the SDLP MLA said.

"Last year it was a prayer service in the People's Park."

Sinn Féin Councillor Gemma McKenna said the Parades Commission determination was "not helpful".

"This is a new and additional parade," she said.

"Creating more parades and more issues, is not the way to resolve parading issues in the town."

Upper Bann DUP MP David Simpson last night disputed claims that part of the parade route was on the Garvaghy Road.

"I hope the commission will honour their original decision and not buckle under the pressure from Breandan MacCionnaith and his republican intolerance," he said.

Parkmount Arch Committee d e c l i n e d to comment last night.

The Parades Commission is expected to rule on the review of its decision today.

* OPPOSITION: Main, Breandan Mac Cionnaith pictured yesterday outside Windsor House in Belfast with Joe Duffy. Above, SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly and right, news of the Garvaghy Road parade was reported in yesterday's Irish News MAIN PICTURE: Hugh Russell


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