Parades Commission bans Portadown march along 'lower stretch of Garvaghy Road'

Orangeman at Garvaghy Road barrier Orangemen have been banned since 1998 from marching along the Garvaghy Road

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The Parades Commission has revised its ruling on a contentious parade in Portadown on Saturday and decided it cannot pass along what it called the "lower stretch of the Garvaghy Road".

The organisers, the Parkmount Arch Committee, applied for two bands and 200 people to march from Portadown centre to Victoria Terrace.

Nationalists objected and described the march as "provocative".

The DUP said the route did not include part of the contested Garvaghy Road.

They said that Victoria Terrace was mixed.

The Parkmount Arch Committee had applied to hold the march to Victoria Terrace to dedicate a new arch.

It is understood it will be dedicated to a local Orangeman who died recently.

Nationalists, including the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition, had objected to the route.

'Unresolved nature'

The Parades Commission reviewed its initial ruling and said it was "prohibiting the procession from the lower stretch of the Garvaghy Road, past Victoria Terrace".

Instead, the commission has decided that the parade should turn left from Shillington's car park onto Castle Street.

In a statement, the commission said: "These restrictions recognise the unresolved nature of parading in this area and the commission consider that the restrictions are just and proportionate.

"The commission would like to reiterate that this parade does not involve that stretch of the Garvaghy Road which has been subject to restriction since 1998."

In the determination, the commission said it "received fresh information in respect of the interests of migrant population in the area".

Orangemen have been banned since 1998 from going down the Garvaghy Road after their march from Drumcree church on the first Sunday of July.

The DUP Upper Bann MP David Simpson criticised what he called the "weakness" of the Parades Commission by refusing to allow the parade to pass Victoria Terrace.

"Having initially granted permission for this parade they have now conducted an outrageous U-turn and caved at the first sign of opposition by the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition," he said.

"The Ordnance Survey maps from Land & Property Services can demonstrate that this parade does not even pass along the Garvaghy Road, but along Victoria Terrace. However the commission appears prepared to believe whatever they are told by those who oppose parades."

Mr Simpson said the parade should be allowed to pass "unhindered".

'Right decision'

SDLP deputy leader Dolores Kelly welcomed the Parades Commission's reviewed decision.

"At last the Parades Commission has come to the right decision because this was nothing more than a cynical attempt by the applicant to up the ante and pull a fast one in advance of the annual Drumcree parade," she said.

She said that since the initial determination was issued, there has been increased tension and anxiety within the nationalist community.

"It was the right thing to do for the SDLP, with others, to seek a review of the initial determination and for the SDLP to have a face-to-face meeting with the Parades Commission to make the concerns clear and to seek clarity."

Sinn Féin councillor Gemma McKenna said the Parades Commission had listened to the views of local residents and elected representatives in making their fresh determination.

"This ruling prohibits this new parade entering into the Lower Garvaghy Road and Victoria Terrace areas," she said.

"We maintain the view that there is no rationale for any loyal order parade in this area."

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