March talks come to nothing

Bosnian-style "proximity talks" on the contentious Drumcree loyalist parade broke down without agreement last night, leaving the authorities facing crucial decisions on whether to ban or allow the march.

The talks were regarded as a last-ditch attempt to avoid a repetition of last year's tumultuous marching season when disturbances which began at Drumcree and spread to many areas of Northern Ireland.

The government-sponsored talks, conducted by Mo Mowlam, the Northern Ireland Secretary, opened yesterday morning on the neutral ground of Hillsborough Castle in a quiet area of Co Down. They broke up without agreement, with both the Orange Order and Catholic residents claiming their reasonable proposals had been turned down.

The fact that the two sides had agreed even to this limited discourse was regarded as an advance in itself, though the surrounding atmospherics were anything but promising. The Orange Order insists on the right to walk down the Catholic Garvaghy Road after its Drumcree church service on 6 July; The residents insist they have the right to say no.

Meanwhile, the IRA's campaign of violence persists at a low but potentially lethal level, with police escaping injury in a rocket attack on vehicles in north Belfast late on Thursday night. The message from republicans appears to be that, while the idea of a renewed ceasefire is not ruled out, the IRA feels free to carry out such attacks up to the point any new cessation comes into effect.

In the Irish Republic, police were investigating a suspected IRA terrorist training camp close to the border in County Cavan.

Discussions on the Drumcree march opened yesterday in proximity talks format because of the Orange Order's refusal to talk directly to Brendan McKenna, spokesman for Garvaghy Road residents, because he served a prison sentence for republican offences in the 1970s.

The two sides arrived by different entrances and were housed in separate parts of the sprawling castle. Precautions were taken to ensure that the two delegations did not meet by chance, with Dr Mowlam, as one observer put it, marching from one side to the other.

The Orange Order negotiating team included the Portadown district master, Harold Gracey, who has a reputation as a hardliner on the marching issue, together with the Armagh county grand master, Dennis Watson, and three other district officers.

The nationalist delegation was led by Brendan McKenna and Father Eamon Stack, a Jesuit priest. On his arrival Mr McKenna said: "Let's be honest about it, people here say that Portadown is a microcosm of the six counties. There's no quick fixes to the problems in the North and there's no quick fix in Portadown."

In an opening statement, Dr Mowlam said she was determined to leave no stone unturned to prevent a re-run of last year's violence. She added: "These proximity talks represent a genuine attempt in good faith to find a way through a complex and highly-emotive problem."

A number of government officials were on call in Hillsborough Castle together with a number of others including Ronnie Flanagan, chief constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Suggested Topics
Sport
Romelu Lukaku
sportChelsea striker sends second teasing tweet of the day
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Tax Solicitor

£40000 - £70000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Tax Solicitor An excel...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Support Analyst

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: This is an exce...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns