A top Portadown Orangeman has expressed his surprise at comments made by the Garvaghy Road Residents' Coalition ahead of today's Drumcree parade.
In a statement this morning (Sunday, July 8) the residents' group said: "As members of Portadown District LOL No 1 prepare for their annual parade today, it should be noted that nationalists in Portadown have repeatedly declared their willingness to accept the alternative, less contentious route along Corcrain Road/Dungannon Road which still provides members of the Orange Order to exercise their right of freedom of assembly to and from Drumcree.
"It should also be noted that, in addition to notifying for parades along Garvaghy Road, the Orange Order and its sister organisation, the Black Preceptory, still continue to submit notifications for parades along Obins Street on 'Drumcree Sunday', 12 July and 13 July – even though it is over thirty years since either organisation was permitted to march through the Obins Street area.
"It is important to state that, in any given year, there is an average of 60 unionist/loyalist parades organised in Portadown, the majority of which are organised by the Orange Order. Those parades provide ample opportunities for members of the Orange Order to exercise their right to freedom of assembly.
"An entire generation of our young people has now grown up and reached adulthood without having to experience the humiliation and fear, tension and violence, or the physical sieges that once accompanied those unwanted and unnecessary sectarian marches through our community during the mid- and late 1990’s, and earlier.
"Our community, and the wider community, has moved from those years.
Those who mistakenly believe that an ‘agreed solution’ or ‘closure’ can simply be achieved by a march along Garvaghy Road or Obins Street tend to do so from a misplaced interpretation of the nature of Orange parades and that of residents' objections.
"It is a not a simple case of one group demonstrating support for a particular and explicit cause, countered by another group opposing that cause.
"What we are dealing with here is a much more subtle and unspoken message - often disingenuously denied by march organisers, yet only too plainly apprehended by residents - conveyed in the very act of parading through (one might say 'temporarily occupying') particular areas where that message causes most offence.
"It is a classic case of the medium being the message."
Responding to the statement Portadown District Master Darryl Hewitt said he was 'very surprised the GRRC had chosen to comment at this stage having been quiet for a number of years'.
He concluded: "I will make further reference to what they had to say in my speech this afternoon."