Senior Orangemen have challenged Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to help resolve issues over the controversial Drumcree march.
Mr McGuinness has been urged by leading Orangemen in Portadown to “use his influence” to help set up a meeting between the Orange Order and Garvaghy Road residents in a bid to resolve the long-running impasse over the Drumcree parade.
The march was once the most controversial of the ‘marching season’ and, at the height of the Drumcree dispute. led to some of the worst rioting seen in the North for decades.
However, the march, which has been prevented from passing along the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road, has passed off without incident in recent years.
The Orangemen made the call after Mr McGuinness urged Orange leaders, who have refused to meet with Sinn Féin figures, to meet with him and Peter Robinson in their roles as First and Deputy First Ministers.
Refusing the offer, a top Portadown Orangeman, Daryll Hewitt said Mr McGuinness should “use his influence to persuade the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition (GRRC) to meet us for face-to-face talks with a view to resolving the Drumcree dispute, which has been going on since 1998 when our return parade via the Garvaghy Road was banned by the parades commission.
“Frankly, I get tired of hearing the order being criticised for failing to meet residents’ groups to sort out contentious parades, while here in Portadown, it’s the residents who are at fault.”
Mr Hewitt also claimed thee Orange order is not against talking to residents. “We have been pursuing the principle of talks for the past five years – talks without preconditions – and the GRRC doesn’t want to know.
“It’s strange how the politicians dive in when there’s violence surrounding parades. We have used every peaceful means we can to try and set up talks, but politicians and the commission have done little to help us,” he claimed.
Prior to this year’s July 12th marches, Mr McGuinness and First Minister Peter Robinson appealed for everyone involved in parades across the North to show calm and restraint.