Don't force marches through, says Ahern

The tension surrounding this weekend's highly charged Orange parade at Drumcree increased yesterday when the new Irish premier, Bertie Ahern, urged the Government not to force the march through.

At the same time, nationalist residents on the controversial Garvarghy Road route through Portadown announced plans to hold nightly pickets on the roadside from today.

Mr Ahern, who yesterday held a brief meeting in Belfast with Mo Mowlam, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, indicated that his support for any decision by her on the fate of Sunday's planned march was not guaranteed.

"Nobody wants to see the march forced through," he said. Asked if he would support her decision - due later this week - he added: "That will depend on what it is."

A more trenchant view still came from the Irish Foreign Minister, Ray Burke, who said it would be "folly" to force the parade through.

Their remarks were seen as a reminder of just how much hangs on Ms Mowlam's decision.

By allowing the march through, she risks alienating the Irish Government and the Nationalist community at a critical time for the prospects of peace.

Against that, The Independent revealed last week that sections of the Orange Order have drawn up plans to bring the province to a standstill if the Portadown march is not allowed through its traditional route.

One theory is that the Government might allow the march to go through, ensuring a short, if sharp backlash, rather than a long, drawn-out stand- off.

Mr Ahern, who will be raising the issue in talks with Tony Blair in London tomorrow, went out of his way to praise Ms Mowlam as a person of "commitment, energy and drive".

He also said he would do everything possible to bring about peace in Northern Ireland.

"I will play my part and I look forward to doing that maybe in a more helpful way than has been done in the past," said Mr Ahern, who later held talks in Dublin with representatives of the Portadown residents and others from the Ormeau Road in Belfast.

Earlier, Ms Mowlam said she was surprised by the decision of the Nationalist residents to hold the roadside vigils.

"I hope the demonstration is peaceful and within the law and in the end that it will still work for common sense to prevail," she said.

Brendan McKenna, spokesman for the residents, said a street festival planned for the day of the parade on Sunday will also go ahead.

He urged the Secretary of State and the RUC Chief Constable to re-route the Orange Parade from Drumcree Church.

"For one year the Nationalist community must have a breathing space from the parade, from the fear, the anger and the real apprehension it causes."

He also confirmed elaborate plans for a "justice camp" and protests involving women and children.

The protests were immediately condemned by unionists as deliberately provocative. The Democratic Unionist Party's Nigel Dodds said: "It's a clear attempt to up the ante. This is deeply regrettable."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer / Web Designer

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leader in the e-cigarette ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leader in the e-cigarette ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future