The secretary of an arch committee which is in the eye of the latest Garvaghy Road marching storm in Portadown has insisted that “our short dedication ceremony and religious service planned for Saturday night should cause offence to nobody”.
Mark Thompson said: “The Parkmount arch is in the Victoria Terrace section of the thoroughfare, well away from the main Garvaghy Road. Most of the arch structure has been renewed and we are dedicating it to the memory of Ivan Forbes who did so much work to maintain the arch.
“Ivan died last January and his widow Marion is performing the unveiling and dedication, with the local chaplain of the Portadown Orange District officers taking part in the service.
“We have been granted permission from the parades commission for a short parade on Saturday night – with two bands and about 200 brethren – followed by the dedication and a parade back into Portadown town centre. The whole event is scheduled for 45 minutes and that’s not too much to expect.”
However, Brendan McKenna of the Garvaghy Road Residents’ Coalition (GRRC), whose campaign had the Drumcree Sunday parade banned from 1998, insisted it was the “latest ploy” for the Orange Order and loyalist groups to find a reason to march on the Garvaghy Road.
He added: “The district tried to hold a service in the nearby People’s Park a year ago at the mini-Twelfth and withdrew at the 11th hour when we mounted a legal challenge. And a proposed parade by the Apprentice Boys in the area in August last year also came to nothing.”
He added the GRRC was equally opposed “to this ploy” and had met with the commission yesterday morning asking them to reverse the decision.
Upper Bann DUP MP David Simpson said: “Common sense must prevail. Progress has been made and I have no doubt this event can proceed in a peaceful and dignified way.”