Concern over contentious Orange parade in Dungiven

Dungiven Faith & Crown Defenders LOL 2036 parade makes it way up Main Street, Dungiven last year.

Dungiven Faith & Crown Defenders LOL 2036 parade makes it way up Main Street, Dungiven last year.

Sinn Fein representatives have met with the Parades Commission about a contentious Orange parade in Dungiven.

The Dungiven Faith & Crown Defenders LOL 2036 parade is scheduled for June 12 and is without banners or bands as members walk in silence from New Street to the church on upper Main Street in Dungiven

Sinn Fein Colr. Sean McGlinchey.

Sinn Fein Colr. Sean McGlinchey.

Previously, a local residents’ group who say their concern is the increase in participant numbers over the years, has protested peacefully at the side of the road and under a police presence.

Last year, however, talks between interested parties, which had involvement from former Assembly Speaker Willie Hay, resulted in the parade passing off without protest.

Sinn Fein councillor Sean McGlinchey said agreement was reached during those talks that numbers would not increase beyond 75 participants.

This year, however, parade organisers have stated the expected number of participants to be 80.

As the Orange Order intends to increase their numbers this year, it appears that the fears of these residents have become a reality. These ongoing changes cannot go unchallenged.

Dungiven Residents’ Group

Talks about the parade have been held recently, with involvement from Colr. McGlinchey and contact made with Lord Hay.

Colr. McGlinchey said given the efforts that had been made, the increase in participant numbers is “very disappointing”.

After meeting with the Parades Commission on Wednesday, along with former East Derry Sinn Fein MLA Cathal O’hOisin, Colr. McGlinchey told the ‘Journal’: “I think this could be a setback for the community in terms of the good work that has taken place last year, and it could set community relations back.

“We hope the Parades Commission will place a determination on the parade, that there are to be no changes to the structure of the parade without consultation with local residents.

“We’ll have to wait and see the outcome from the Parades Commission and then sit down with residents, but I think this increase in numbers is very disappointing and it is disrespectful.”

In a statement to the ‘Journal’, a spokesperson for the Dungiven Residents’ Group said they are “very unhappy that, yet again, the Orange Order have applied to increase the numbers of participants in their annual Church parade through Dungiven on June 12th”.

“Over the past number of years there has been contention with this parade going through, what is a largely Nationalist/Republican town without any consideration for the residents. Last year there was an understanding that there would be no more changes to the annual parade and the residents took a decision not to protest.

“However, some within the community expressed the view that they would be worried that the numbers, style and format of the parade would change in future years.

“Their main worry was that the parade would grow in numbers and that this would cause extra security measures to be put in place with the net result being the disruption to the lives of those who live in Dungiven.

“As the Orange Order intends to increase their numbers this year, it appears that the fears of these residents have become a reality. These ongoing changes cannot go unchallenged.

“The Dungiven Residents Group are not trying to inhibit the right of the Orange Order to celebrate their culture, but they do believe that the Orange Order are not respecting the rights of the residents of Dungiven by the refusal of the Order to enter into dialogue over this disputed parade.

The Residents’ Group has asked the Parades Commission to “look unfavourably at any future application for this parade if it exceeds the number that they have applied for this year (which is 80) and, if the style or format of the parade was to be changed in any way without the prior agreement of the residents of Dungiven”.

“We wish to make it clear that we do not want to deny anybody’s cultural rights, but with those rights comes responsibilities and in this case that includes speaking to the residents of Dungiven,” added the Residents’ Group spokesperson.