25 years on, obstinance and threat of disorder continues to dictate Drumcree decision – Lockhart

Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart has said it is a ‘sad indictment’ on the interpretation of rights in Northern Ireland, that the annual Drumcree Church Parade by Portadown District LOL 1, scheduled for this Sunday, continues to be blocked by the Parades Commission.

By Carla Lockhart Candidate

Upper Bann

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The DUP representative said the Commission continued rulings outline that the threat of public disorder should the parade proceed was a key determining factor in the decision, and warned that sending such a message to those hostile to parading was a ‘dangerous precedent’.

Speaking ahead of a meeting with the Parades Commission, Carla Lockhart said:

“For 25 years now Portadown District LOL 1 has been denied their right to return from worship at Drumcree Parish Church via Garvaghy Road. This ongoing dispute continues to sour community relations in Portadown, and whilst the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition (GRRC) claim the community has moved on, that is not the case. Division continues and does nothing to bring communities together in a spirit of mutual respect and understanding.

Under the Public Processions (NI) Act 1998 the Duties and Functions of the Parades Commission include ‘to promote and facilitate mediation as a means of resolving disputes concerning public processions.’ In this duty and function the Commission is not only failing, but is actually rewarding those in GRRC who refuse to engage either indirectly or directly with the District Lodge to find a resolution to this dispute. Portadown District remain ready and willing to engage, yet year on year their good intention and determination to find a compromise is ignored.

Sadly, the Parades Commission in their own determination makes clear that the threat of public disorder should the parade proceed is a key factor in the decision reached. I think that is a dangerous precedent, and an alarming message to send out to anyone who is hostile to any form of parade or public procession. Rights should not be sacrificed because of the threat of violence. That is a sad indictment on the interpretation of human rights law for any society.

I will be meeting the Parades Commission tomorrow to express my concerns at their approach, and this decision. I have also met the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, but he made clear that he would do nothing to challenge, question or hold the Parades Commission to account something his predecessor had agreed to do. It is once again disappointing he will not join those of us who want to bring about a solution that can bring this dispute to an end.

Portadown District is to be commended for their willingness to engage, and their commitment to peaceful protest, in the face of such blatant obstinance from GRRC and the Parades Commission who appear to be accountable to no one. I know that peaceful protest will continue not just this weekend, but will continue into the future. My hope is that this dignified approach will eventually bring about a shared intent from residents to find a solution that allows the whole community of Portadown to move on.”

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