Blair's emissary bids to resolve Drumcree move

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT will this week renew its efforts to resolve the dispute over marching at Drumcree in Northern Ireland.

Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's chief of staff, will re- establish contacts with both sides in the dispute to try to find a settlement. He may travel to Belfast to meet both groups.

Last night, a spokesman for Mr Blair said the Prime Minister was adamant that agreement must be reached between the Portadown Orangemen and the nationalist residents of Garvaghy Road. "There will be further contacts this coming week. The Prime Minster is determined to find an accommodation over Drumcree," the spokesman said.

"The talks will be between officials and the various sides, though at this stage where and when the meetings will take place has not yet been decided. It has also not been decided who will take part."

For the 56th week running the Parades Commission, which decides whether or not to allow marches to take place, has refused the Orange Order permission to march down the nationalist Garvaghy Road in the Co Antrim town. The decision follows annual scenes of violence and disruption each July at the height of the marching season. This year events passed off peacefully.

Yesterday, Portadown Orange spokesman David Jones said that he was expecting a new round of talks, although he said they would not be held directly with the nationalists.

"There has been that suggestion but, as we are opposed to face-to-face talks, any discussions with the residents will have to be on a proximity basis," he said. "We firmly believe if a deal is going to be done, it is going to be achieved with the help of the Prime Minister."

Dolores Kelly, the nationalist Mayor of Craigavon whose borough covers Portadown, welcomed the move to restart talks. "It is important that there is a speedy and quick attempt to resolve Drumcree and that the vacuum, which enables tensions in the town to boil over into violence, is filled," she said.