Orange Order asks DUP to put Drumcree march on wishlist in May talks

Owen Bowcott


12th June 2017

It is 20 years since the protestant Orange Order parade to Drumcree church was allowed to return to Portadown along the resentful, predominantly republican Garvaghy Road. The annual, sectarian confrontation has slipped from public attention. In the slipstream of Democratic Unionist party negotiations with Theresa May over deals to sustain her weakened government, however, a wishlist of loyalist aspirations has begun to emerge this week — among them calls for the march to complete its contentious, former route.

“Every Sunday an Orange Order delegation takes a petition to the bridge below in protest at being blocked,” said William McGuffin, who lives in a cottage in the shadow of Drumcree parish church’s steeple. “And there’s always three carloads of policemen [ensuring they don’t go through]. That’s some money.

” A former band member, McGuffin used to follow the marches. “It should be allowed. It’s only once a year.

It’s a part of our background. I go to Catholic parades and they have their special days, like Paddy’s Day. ” While DUP officials refined their agenda in the to Tuesday’s discussions with the prime minister, the Orange Order lodge in Portadown issued a statement on social media, urging the local Upper Bann MP, David Simpson, to exploit the party’s newfound influence.

“We note the invitation from [Theresa May] to the DUP to support her government,” it said. “We trust that the parading issue especially in Portadown will be high on the agenda for the new government. “It is clear that the endeavour of the Orange family to maximise the unionist vote 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. ” Of the DUP’s 10 MPs, seven are members of the Orange or independent marching orders. The order’s headquarters in Belfast declined to comment about the Portadown lodge’s plea, but the issue is expected to be raised at a meeting on Wednesday.

On the Garvaghy Road, lined with Sinn Féin election posters and Irish tricolour flags, Robert McCann, a resident, said he hoped the parade could be forgotten. “At this time of year you get all sorts of idiots out on both sides,” he explained. “About a month ago there was 20 of them who got off a bus and were trying to rip down a tricolour.

They threw bottles and stones. Someone was beaten up. ” As the 12 July anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne approaches, towering piles of wooden pallets are gathered in loyalist areas of Northern Ireland for the traditional, celebratory bonfires.

Community tensions are easily inflamed. Despite indications that Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, will chiefly be looking for extra public funds for Northern Ireland from the minority Conservative government, unionist expectations have begun to rise. Many DUP voters feel Sinn Féin and nationalists benefited most from the 1998 Good Friday agreement.

Any deal with Westminster will play into anticipation that more should be done to redress loyalist grievances. The list is growing. Willie Frazer, of the Family Research and Policy Unit, a loyalist campaign group on behalf of victims of the Troubles, confirmed that he had been in touch with the DUP to press for a royal pardon for members of the security forces who are facing prosecution and to ask for help in obtaining Libyan government funds — which have been frozen in London — to pay compensation to IRA victims killed by weapons supplied by Muammar Gadaffi.

“We’ve been in contact with the DUP,” Frazer, from Markethill, County Armagh, said. “The party has a realistic position on helping victims. I’d like to see every soldier who served in Northern Ireland receiving a royal pardon so that they can’t be prosecuted.

” Several British former soldiers are awaiting trial or facing investigations for shootings from the early years of the Troubles. “Soldiers never chose to come to Northern Ireland where sometimes, maybe, they made a mistake,” Frazer added. “I don’t think they should be given an amnesty — that implies they did something wrong.

A pardon would be better. ” Molly Carson, a former Ulster Defence Regiment soldier who now runs another campaign group, Families Acting for Innocent Relatives, said she hoped the legal status of victims could be improved: “I would like to see the DUP supporting the prime minister. The DUP is a very organisation.

“Part of the problem here has been that the people here are so loyal to Britain. British soldiers were always impressed when we stood up for the national anthem at the end of an evening. ” That loyalty, she felt, had not always been adequately rewarded.

In the centre of Portadown, Ruth Culverston, from nearby Moira, welcomed the prospect of walking the Orange Order route back into the town along the Garvaghy Road. “I voted DUP,” she said. “I used to follow the parade.

My parents and brothers always used to go on the Drumcree parade. That would be the main thing to ask for. It was 20 years ago they last went down the road.

It’s only one day a year. Why not?” But Pearse Dynes, who voted for the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour party, was appalled. “This deal will not help the nationalist community.

[A Drumcree parade] will take things back and stop the peace process. ”.


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