Orangemen challenge McGuinness on talks (NewsLetter)

Portadown Orangemen yesterday challenged deputy first minister Martin McGuinness to use his influence and persuade the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition (GRRC) to meet them to discuss the Drumcree parade impasse.
The move comes after Mr McGuinness called on the Orange Order to engage in dialogue over contentious parades, claiming that if the order had problems meeting with Sinn Fein, they should meet with him and first minister Peter Robinson to discuss the issue.
The offer was immediately rebuffed by the Orange Order.
But Portadown district master Darryl Hewitt jumped into the controversy yesterday and challenged Mr McGuinness to “use his influence to persuade the 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”.
Mr Hewitt added: “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.
“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.”
The Portadown district has also gone against the policy of the Grand Lodge of Ireland by meeting with parades commission members and chairmen on a number of occasions, but there is no breakthrough in sight.
And Mr Hewitt insisted they would not be meeting with Sinn Fein to resolve the issue.
“This isn’t a political issue,” he added. “It’s a matter between the Portadown district and the GRRC, and round-table talks between the two sides are the way forward.”
After last week’s Drumcree parade, the GRRC wasn’t totally ruling out talks, but it was adamant that it would not agree to a parade through the Garvaghy Road.
Chairman Joe Duffy said: “We did agree to talks in the past, but at that stage the Portadown district officers wouldn’t sit in the same room as us. All they wanted to discuss was the march, but there are other issues.
“Anyway, the return parade is a dead duck and it’s time to move on.”
Former chairman Brendan McKenna pointed out that the last time the district had been in touch was three years ago, while local MLA and education minister John O’Dowd agreed that talks were required to move things on, but that a return march would not take place.


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