Drumcree rector John Pickering retires

 

The rector of Drumcree Parish Church outside Portadown, Co Armagh, the Rev John Pickering, dispute has retired.

Rev Pickering, conducted his final service at the church today.

Although Drumcree is only in the headlines in early July, members of the local Orange lodge have attended Sunday service at the church every week since the parade stand-off began 10 years ago - before parading to police lines a short distance away.

After years of stalemate over their wish to parade their traditional route back from a service in July down the nationalist Garvaghy Road, the Orangemen now insist they are willing to have face-to-face talks with the residents' representatives to try to end the dispute.

However, talks are yet to take place and the Rev Pickering , retiring after 23 years as rector, said goodbye without seeing the resolution he had prayed for.

But he said: "It will have to be settled some time. Now that all the parties are sitting together in the Northern Ireland Assembly as a symbol of sharing, it is a nonsense that the Drumcree dispute, which is a symbol of difference and division, is allowed to continue."

The members of the Portadown District Orange Lodge presented Rev Pickering with a bible as a farewell at the service to thank him for his support during the Drumcree dispute - and then paraded off to the bottom of the hill to make their weekly protest.