Drumcree parade dispute 'lies at the heart of how Northern Ireland moves forward': Lockhart

​The DUP has defended an attempt to have the Drumcree parade dispute raised in the House of Commons, saying the issue “lies at the heart” of progress in Northern Ireland.
The Portadown District Orange parade at DrumcreeThe Portadown District Orange parade at Drumcree
The Portadown District Orange parade at Drumcree

​Carla Lockhart’s Early Day Motion tabled at Westminster – expressing “regret” that the Portadown District of the Orange Order has been banned from parading along the Garvaghy Road – led to an angry backlash from nationalists.

The Upper Bann MP’s motion has been drafted to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the annual church parade being stopped close to Drumcree Parish Church by virtue of a Parades Commission determination.

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Parades that were originally prevented from passing along the Garvaghy Road each year between 1995 and 1997 were eventually facilitated after widespread public disorder.

Each year since 1998, the local lodge has set off from the church on the last Sunday before the Twelfth of July, but been stopped on the Drumcree Road by police.

To mark the 25th anniversary, representatives of every district have been invited to join their Portadown counterparts for the church parade a protest at the police checkpoint on the the return leg.

Responding to the News Letter’s report of the DUP motion, nationalist commentator Chris Donnelly accused the party of "recklessly weighing in behind the Orange Order’s callous attempts to reignite sectarian tensions at parade hotspots”.

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Carla Lockhart, rejected the claim, saying Mr Donnelly “sets a poor example… about how to build a shared future when he isn’t even in favour of sharing a road for ten minutes” once a year in Portadown.

"I'm not surprised by this response from a former Sinn Fein election candidate. Sinn Fein has never wanted Orange feet on Garvaghy road, after all Sinn Fein helped whip up the tension in the first place,” she said.

“There is not much sign of tolerance or respect for the Orangemen. This lies at the heart of how Northern Ireland moves forward, there must be respect for all sides."

Speaking out in favour of the Commons motion, Orange Order grand secretary Rev Mervyn Gibson said: “We welcome anything that raises the profile of the injustice of the Drumcree decision for the past 25 years.”