Low-key Drumcree parade passes off peacefully
The annual Orange Order parade to Drumcree church in Portadown, Co Armagh passed off peacefully today, raising hopes of a quiet summer marching season.
Orangemen, who have been banned from marching from Drumcree Parish Church through the nationalist Garvaghy Road since 1998, were again barred by the barrier manned by the police and the British army.
After taking part in a church service to commemorate those killed in the Battle of the Somme during the First World War, Orangemen vowed to continue their efforts to walk down the Garvaghy Road.
Their District Master Mr David Burrowes also hit out at the decision of the Parades Commission to ban them yet again while allowing Orangemen in Belfast last week to march along a controversial route.
"Since we were stopped in 1998 the Portadown District has continued to parade to this spot each Sunday," he said.
"This now numbers over 300 occasions. I don't think that anyone can doubt our commitment to seeing this through and in having our rights restored.
"We have continually worked since 1998 in a variety of ways to try to resolve this while maintaining a stand started by our late District Master Harold Gracey. It is unfortunate, to say the least, that the Parades Commission has not recognised all the efforts the District has made these past seven years to move the matter forward.
"There must come a time when these crazy decision to uphold the nationalist veto on our parade ins ended."
There was a much more low key police and army presence on both sides of the barrier separating the nationalist Garvaghy Road residents and Orangemen. Turn out on the Orange side also appeared to be much down than in recent years.
The hill leading up to the Anglican church at Drumcree this year was not packed tight and no-one spilled over onto the neighbouring field. It was estimated that around 1000 people turned up at Drumcree in support of the Orangemen but in the past their protests would have attracted tens of thousands of supporters from all over Northern Ireland, from Scotland, England and other places.
Earlier, Mr Burrows, noted in a speech from Carleton Street Orange Hall that today was the seventh time Orangemen had been banned by the Parades Commission from marching on the Garvaghy Road.
During a short prayer service, he told them: "No matter what people say, Portadown District is still on the road.
"We are still going out to Drumcree Parish Church this morning and we hope you have a very enjoyable day."