Garvaghy group seeks Ahern's help
Representatives of the Garvaghy Road Residents' Coalition have asked the Taoiseach to use his influence with the British government to "bring about an end to the intimidation" of nationalists in Portadown.
Mr Brendan Mac Cionnaith, a spokesman for the coalition, provided politicians in Leinster House yesterday with copies of a dossier listing Orange parades, protests and loyalist attacks on Catholic-owned shops and homes since last July.
According to Mr Mac Cionnaith, 150 demonstrations have taken place since July, "the majority of them illegal". Catholic-owned shops in the centre of Portadown had been burned and 16 families had been forced from their homes, he said. More than one-third of the families living in Craigwell Avenue in Portadown had moved or were in the process of moving home.
"If we were an ethnic community in Britain, being subjected to the same abuse over seven months, an inquiry would have been set up by now. But in Portadown there is a wall of silence," Mr Mac Cionnaith said.
Accusing the Orange Order and loyalists of engaging in an attempt to "ethnically cleanse" Portadown, he said residents wanted Mr Ahern and the Government to assist in bringing about an end to the "siege". The Belfast Agreement provided a blueprint for equality and mutual understanding, and that was all the residents sought, he added. "All we are asking for is the implementation of the agreement."
Expressing concern that the Parades Commission was conducting a review of its procedures, Mr Mac Cionnaith asked if an attempt was under way to "change the goalposts". Only 12 prosecutions had been pursued under the Public Processions Act, and the commission should be given the power to prosecute.