Orangemen blame Parades Commission and residents over £23k Drumcree cost

Pacemaker press 10/08/2016. Orange men make the annual march to Drumcree road. The Portadown Church was the scene of serious rioting every year in the late 1990s when Orange men were barred from walking along the Garvaghy Road to return to the parade's starting point at Carleton Street. Picture Mark Marlow/pacemaker press
Pacemaker press 10/08/2016. Orange men make the annual march to Drumcree road. The Portadown Church was the scene of serious rioting every year in the late 1990s when Orange men were barred from walking along the Garvaghy Road to return to the parade's starting point at Carleton Street. Picture Mark Marlow/pacemaker press

The Orange Order has blamed the annual £23,000 cost of policing the Drumcree protest on the Parades Commission and residents opposed to the parade.

Since 1998 the commission has banned the order from going down the Garvaghy Road after their march from Drumcree church in Portadown on the first Sunday of July.

Worshipful District Master of Portadown District Loyal Orange Lodge (LOL) No 1 Darryl Hewitt was commenting after the PSNI released the information in a Freedom of Information request.

He told the News Letter: “If residents were not objecting to the parade there would be no need for any policing and no costs.”

The News Letter revealed in May that Mr Hewitt had asked a senior Catholic cleric to chair a meeting, without preconditions, with residents to resolve the impasse.

When asked to take the role, Mr Hewtitt said the cleric responded: “I would be honoured.”

The parade will not be allowed to proceed until the residents meet with the Order, Mr Hewitt said.

He suggested that the main costs calculated would be on the annual Drumcree Sunday in July, which was confirmed by PSNI Inspector Stephen Humphries.

He said the £23,000 was incurred with one chief inspector at £53.65 per hour, three inspectors at £49.76, seven sergeants at £40.06 and 34 constables at £34.10. The local officers would have worked an eight-hour shift on the main demonstration on Sunday, July 5, 2015, he added.

A Parades Commission spokesman said: “The divisive legacy of the Drumcree parading dispute is well understood by everyone involved.”

She added: “The commission is aware that attempts at engagement have been advanced by the organiser. To date this engagement has not produced any significant developments nor has an agenda for dialogue been agreed.”

The commission keeps the matter under review, she added.