Top Drumcree Orangeman backs Twaddell protestors

Some of the hundreds of protestors who paraded to Twaddell Avenue on Thursday night
Some of the hundreds of protestors who paraded to Twaddell Avenue on Thursday night

The most senior Orangeman in the Drumcree dispute has given his support to his colleagues’ protest at Twaddell and urged those in authority to do more to pressure the Parades Commission over the issue.

This week, 1,000 days of the Twaddell protest were marked in north Belfast – but there is no sign of the protestors’ campaign overturning the Parades Commission’s decision that the return leg of the Twelfth parade should not continue up the Crumlin Road.

Darryl Hewitt, Portadown Orange district master, blamed the Parades Commission for the impasse and said “they’ve done absolutely nothing for us at Drumcree either”.

He told the News Letter: “I think that the Twaddell brethren are absolutely justified in trying to complete the parade in the same way as we are justified in trying to get our parade completed.”

He said that “people in authority need to be putting pressure on the Parades Commission to get a resolution to the thing”.

Mr Hewitt – whose district has been protesting at Drumcree for more than 6,000 days – added: “We hear Martin McGuinness and Gerry Kelly saying that the loyal orders need to sit down and talk to residents.

“We’ve been trying to talk to residents for the past eight years but you never hear any of the same people coming out and saying that the Garvaghy residents should meet Portadown District.

“It’s not a level playing field.”

At Twaddell on Thursday night, protestors demanded to know what politicians are doing to secure the parade’s passage up the Crumlin Road.

The News Letter asked both main unionist parties that question yesterday.

Local DUP representative William Humphrey said: “Since the first day of this protest, and over preceding years, we have worked closely with the lodges, bands and community to support the return parade along the Crumlin Road.”

He said that party members had also volunteered at and donated to the camp, and added: “We agree with the County Grand Master of Belfast who stressed that the focus should be maintained on the core problem: the intolerance of those who oppose a six-minute parade.

“We support new legislation for a fresh start on how parades and protests are dealt with and the loyal orders are a key stakeholder in that process.”

An Ulster Unionist spokesman said that the party “believes that people should be free to assemble in a lawful and respectful manner” but that “the right to assembly, which includes parading and protesting, is not absolute, but qualified by concerns including the prevention of disorder”.

Recalling the 2012 republican violence at the parade, he added: “Yet, the following year, the Parades Commission punished the parading community, by banning their return parade. Any new regulatory regime will have to address these inconsistencies.

“We have engaged with stakeholders, raised these issues with the government, and all relevant statutory agencies, and will continue to do so.”

Build new road to end the standoff, says new party

The leader of the new ‘Common Sense Party NI’ has proposed building a new road to end the Twaddell parade standoff.

Tom Burns’s radical proposals include the creation of “a new proper road to link the upper Crumlin Road with the Glencairn estate to allow the Twelfth parade to march through this receptive area” and to relieve traffic congestion in the area.

To build the road, Mr Burns would offer £1 million to each householder whose homes would have to be demolished. He argued that it would be cheaper than the multi-million pound cost of policing the Twaddell standoff.

However, he asked us to clarify that it would not – as reported in Friday’s News Letter – involve offering £1 million to each of the householders on the Upper Crumlin Road who object to Orange parades.