Commission ‘dragged migrants into arch dispute’

Honorary Consul of Poland Jerome Mullen
Honorary Consul of Poland Jerome Mullen

Northern Ireland’s Polish Consul has lambasted the Parades Commission for dragging the migrant population into the disputed Parkmount Arch parade in Portadown.

Jerome Mullen said allegations that the local migrant community were involved in the recent determination “have been shown to be totally without foundation”.

Unionists last week accused the Parades Commission of performing an “outrageous U-turn” after it reversed a decision that would have allowed a parade for a short distance along the traditionally unionist end of the Garvaghy Road.

Mr Mullen said he had been “deeply concerned” when the migrant community was included as one of the reasons in the commission’s reversal of its original determination.

When contacted by the Orange Order, Mr Mullen said the Polish community “would have no interest in this dispute and would know nothing about the issues”.

Mr Mullen made his views known to the Rev Mervyn Gibson of the Orange Order and also expressed his “grave concern” to the Parades Commission.

“This could have serious consequences for the migrant communities living in this area and in the greater Portadown area,” he said.

Mr Mullen was also contacted by John Stevenson of the PUP and met both him and Garvaghy Road Residents’ Association chairman Breandan MacCionnaith at separate meetings this week.

“I made it clear to the commission that the Polish community and I believed other migrant communities had no interest in this dispute and should not have been included in this determination.

“The commission explained that this was not the only reason for the change in their determination but they would take on board my concerns on this matter,” he said.

Mr Mullen said Mr MacCionnaith showed him a copy of the submission he made to the commission which contained no reference to the migrant community.

Mr Stevenson said Mr Mullen’s statement raised “very serious questions” about the commission and how they conduct their business.

“We believe lies are being told in relation to the ‘fresh evidence’ supposedly offered to the commission in their review,” he said.

A Parades Commission spokesperson said: “As stated in the revised decision the commission heard representation on the existence of the arch which has been erected on a yearly basis on the lower Garvaghy Road. The representation was to the effect that the arch is a source of tension and there is opposition to it being erected in Garvaghy Road.”