Blair told of terror blitz by Drumcree Orangemen

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The Independent Online
TONY BLAIR failed to break the deadlock over the Orange Order march at Drumcree when he held talks yesterday with residents from the nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown.

The 45-minute Downing Street session was described as "constructive" by both sides but ended without a breakthrough. In a further setback to hopes of a settlement, Orangemen refused the Government's offer of new talks about the march.

Breandan MacCionnaith, the residents' spokesman and an Independent councillor in Portadown, said the delegation had described to the Prime Minister incidents of violence, terror and intimidation inflicted on nationalists, their homes and property.

"We briefed him on the situation and particularly about the whole campaign of Orange terror and we noted the same situation would not be tolerated if it was directed against a minority community anywhere else in Great Britain."

The Garvaghy Road Residents' Coalition has claimed that 140 mainly illegal Orange demonstrations have been held in Portadown since July and that Catholic homes and businesses have been attacked and bombed with families assaulted, threatened and abused.

Mr MacCionnaith welcomed a statement by Mr Blair that the decision of the Parades Commission banning the Orange march would be upheld.

In Ulster, meanwhile, Orangemen refused to take part in further negotiations unless the Government devised a clearer structure. Denis Watson, the County Armagh Grand Master, wrote to Mr Blair yesterday turning down an invitation by Adam Ingram, a Northern Ireland Office minister, to proximity talks next weekend.

Orangemen said they would not talk directly to Mr MacCionnaith as a Garvaghy Road residents' representative because he had a terrorist conviction. Calling for "indirect" talks rather than a face-to-face meeting with the residents, Mr Watson said: "We believe that professional help is now required and we confirm we will not participate in further talks until a clearly defined structure is produced to fit the mood at this time. We are anxious to achieve a just and lasting solution, accommodation is all we seek - not segregation. For the Brethren, these talks have been demoralising and demotivating and they have lost confidence in the merit of another round."

Mr MacCionnaith told a Commons press conference that the residents were disappointed at the Orange Order's decision. He also criticised David Trimble, Northern Ireland's First Minister designate, for calling for the Parades Commission to be disbanded. "Trimble sees himself as an Orangeman first and the Prime Minister designate second," he said.