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News from Portadown

                              The full text of Harold Gracey's response to the
Parades Commission                           07-07- 2000

                           1. I am the District Master of Portadown District Loyal Orange Lodge No. 1 and
                           have been since 1986. I list here a series of meetings and events in which I,
                           together with other District Officers from Portadown , have taken part in an
                           effort to resolve the difficulty in returning from morning worship at Drumcree
                           Parish Church to Carleton Street Orange Hall via the traditional route of the
                           Garvaghy Road. I refer to a list of meetings between the 6th July 1998 and the
                           15th July 1999.I would highlight the following.

                           a) Proximity talks at the Demesne Armagh on three separate dates namely 11th
                           , 18th and 21st July 1998.Portadown District Officers were present at all
                           three. The talks were chaired by Jonathon Powell , the Chief of Staff of the
                           Prime Minister. In addition Officers were present from the Country Grand Lodge
                           of Armagh. The Garvaghy Road Coalition were represented.

                           b) The bilateral talks Portadown 12th August , 18th September and 17th
                           October1998.There was little progress. Senior civil servants from the Northern
                           Ireland Office met both sides to the dispute. The Portadown District delegation
                           attempted to learn of any specific legitimate concerns or grievances which the
                           Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition (hereinafter GRRC ) had with regard to the
                           Orange parade but were not advised specifically of any. There was an attempt
                           to try to agree a process for further discussions but nothing materialized.

                           c) 16th December 1998 Proximity talks at Nutts Corner. These were chaired by
                           Jonathan Powell. Again senior civil servants from the NIO were in attendance
                           together with the Reverend Roy Magee and Peter Quinn. Portadown District
                           representatives made it clear that it was desirable to have a return parade from
                           Drumcree Parish Church before the end 1998 and once that was achieved it
                           would be possible to move forward through mechanisms for a Civic Forum or
                           similar body. Unfortunately there was no prospect of any movement from the
                           GRRC in these terms.

                           d) The Frank Blair initiative was instigated by the Prime Minister and Jonathon
                           Powell. It was envisaged that there would be three phases to it. The Portadown
                           delegation took part in all three phases. The first phase was an initial meeting in
                           which Frank Blair explained what he had in mind. The second phase was a
                           two-day process in which representatives of every lodge in Portadown District
                           met with representatives including Frank Blair to go through and prioritize all
                           issues relating to the Drumcree issue. Neither of those initial stages were
                           completed by the representatives from the GRRC. The third phase took place on
                           the 4th , 5th and 17th June at the Interpoint Centre , Belfast. There were some
                           exchanges of paper between Portadown District and the GRRC. Frank Blair
                           presented an initiative with two sections to it.One section was quickly agreed
                           by Portadown District namely that if a Civic Forum was created , Portadown
                           District would attend it in whatever capacity they were permitted. This would be
                           in keeping with the representatives from all other sections of the community in
                           Portadown. They undertook to play whatever part they could in the entirety of a
                           Civic Forum. The second phase was to attempt to resolve the return march from
                           Drumcree Parish Church. However the only significant response from the GRRC
                           was to make it clear that they find all Orange marches quite unacceptable. At
                           the end of the process Frank Blair made it clear to Portadown District that he
                           had failed to make any progress whatsoever and was advising the Prime Minister
                           and Jonathon Powell that his process was effectively dead. Throughout this
                           process the GRRC had continually stalled and prevaricated. They declined to
                           address any specific questions concerning any specific legitimate concerns
                           about the return parade along the Garvaghy Road. They continually wished to
                           discuss other issues such as the murders of Rosemary Nelson and Robert Hamill
                           and were simply told by the Portadown District representatives that those
                           issues were really for local politicians , local councillors or others to deal with.

                           e) In the days leading up to the proposed return parade on 4th July 1999
                           Portadown District representatives had extensive meetings with the Prime
                           Minister and others. Throughout they made genuine efforts to try to seek a
                           peaceful return parade. They also understood that the Prime Minister , Jonathan
                           Powell and David Trimble made strenuous efforts directly with the GRRC to try
                           to find a solution to the problem. They believe that the only response was again
                           to make it clear that there will be no Orange feet on the Garvaghy Road.

                           2. On the 9th August 1999 Richard Monteith , a legal representative for
                           Portadown District had his first meeting with the Parades Commission and
                           outlined the position on behalf of Portadown District.

                           3.On the 20th August 1999 George Howarth met representatives of Portadown
                           District and indicated that he was commencing a new process designed at
                           solving the problem.It was envisaged that a series of meetings would be set up
                           in the week commencing 23rd August 1999 at which the political and legal
                           representatives of Portadown District would meet face to face with the GRRC.

                           4. However the first meeting actually took place on the 24th September 1999
                           when Richard Monteith , solicitor , David McNarry , local concillor and David
                           Campbell , chief of staff for the First Minister David Trimble , all represented
                           Portadown District in face to face discussions with the GRRC.This was under the
                           chairmanship of Adam Ingram.The minutes have already been supplied to the
                           Parades Commission although this has always been without the approval of the
                           GRRC.A second meeting took place on the 30th September 1999 when most of
                           the meeting was actually taken up by discussions about the minutes and the
                           refusal of the GRRC to permit any observers to attend from the Parades
                           Commission.The final meeting took place on the on Tuesday 12th October 1999
                           at Stormont when the GRRC advised Adam Ingram that they could not negotiate
                           whatsoever in relation to a parade along the Garvaghy Road.They demanded an
                           adjournment and to see Adam Ingram privately.Almost two hours later the
                           Portadown delegation was advised by Adam Ingram that the GRRC no longer
                           accepted him or any other Government Minister as a chairman of these or any
                           other future discussions.It was therefore not possible to reach an agreement on
                           the complex and sensitive issues involved in the Drumcree problem.As a result
                           the GRRC ceased all contact or discussions with our representatives.

                           5. Portadown District representatives had anticipated the stance taken on the
                           12th October and they have continued since that date to attempt to engage
                           with those that are prepared to meet them to try to find a resolution to the
                           Drumcree problem.In particular they have met the following:- 9th December
                           1999 , Brian Currin ; 27th January 2000 , Secretary of State and Jonathan
                           Powell ; 31st January , Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission ; 4th April ,
                           Secretary of State ; 12th April , Brian Currin ; 27th April , Richard Monteith ,
                           solicitor met the Parades Commission ; 2nd May , Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland
                           ; 18th May , Richard Monteith met Brian Currin ; 7th June , 2000 pre-mediation
                           talks with Brian Currin.

                           6. Portadown District representatives have attempted to speak to all parties ,
                           apart from direct face to face negotiations with the GRRC throughout the period
                           since July 1998.They have attempted on all occasions to deal with the one
                           issue that is directly relevant to them namely the question of Orange Parades in
                           Portadown and in particular the return parade along the Garvaghy Road from
                           Drumcree Parish Church.They have not prevaricated with those they have met ,
                           nor declined any meeting or effort to try to move the situation forward.However
                           Portadown District would contend that there is no attempt being made to reach
                           any locol accommodation by the representatives from the GRRC and they are
                           content to simply veto any future parade.

                           7. The pre-mediation talks with Brian Currin were positive and helpful.Brian Currin
                           had a list of over 20 items which needed clarification from both the GRRC and
                           Portadown District to try to establish some ground rules for a mediation
                           process.There remain some substantial areas of disagreement between the
                           parties but as far as the Portadown District are concerned they will endeavour
                           to overcome these areas and to move forward into full mediation.It is envisaged
                           this process will not re-commence until after the July 2000 with the time scale
                           stretching into Easter 2001.Portadown District representatives will approach
                           this process in the same way as they have all other processes as outlined.It is
                           believed that the GRRC will raise many issues in this process apart from Orange
                           Parades and an attempt will be made in establishing ground rules for mediation
                           to see how these other issues can be handled to try to have the GRRC focus on
                           the issues of direct relevance to Portadown District.The British Government is a
                           third party to Currins mediation process and that may allow the GRRC to take
                           up other matters directly with the Government.

                           8. On behalf of Portadown District LOL No. 1 would give the following pledges in
                           the event of a parade being permitted by Portadown District LOL No. 1 from the
                           Drumcree Parish Church via the Garvaghy Road to Carleton Street Orange Hall
                           on 9th July 2000:-

                           (i) To immediately cancel all rallies , protests , parades and other related
                           activities which have been notified or planned. There will be no further protests
                           or associated events concerning the Drumcree issue as the cause of the
                           protest from July 1998 will have been effectively removed.

                           (ii) To continue to engage in the premeditation process set up by Brian Currin
                           with a view to moving to full mediation and an attempt to resolve the parades
                           issue for 2001 and all future years.

                           (iii) To continue to publicly urge that all issues surrounding the Drumcree
                           parades dispute be resolved peacefully and without re-course to violence of
                           any kind.

                           (iv) To have Portadown District LoL No. 1 Representatives take part in any Civic
                           Forum established assuming that Orange Representatives are invited to attend.

                           (v) The parade while it passes from Drumcree Church to Shillingtons Bridge will
                           be limited to Orangemen from Portadown District LOL No. 1 Bands or Orangemen
                           from other areas will not be permitted to take part.

   Detailed List of Meetings

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