Orange Order move to hold service at Garvaghy Road clearly aimed to raise tensions - Cllr McGibbon
Sinn Féin Council Group Leader in Craigavon Johnny McGibbon has slammed the DUP, UUP and Alliance Party on Craigavon Borough Council for what he has called an ‘utterly foolish’ decision to allow the Orange Order to hold a ‘prayer service’ in Portadown People’s Park on the same night as the annual Mini-Twelfth parade this June. The application was granted on a vote 13 For – 12 against, with nationalists voting against, supported by 2 Ulster Unionist Councillors.
Cllr McGibbon explained,
“As noted by a number of Councillors, including two unionists, this application was a deliberate attempt to stir up tension and potentially jeporadise the £7million EU Peace III funding the Council has achieved to redevelop the Public park and create a real shared space.“
“The Orange Order stated publically, before the matter had even been debated, that they were making an application to test the Council. This displayed quite clearly that the Order had made a decision to use a religious service as a cover for political activity, in an attempt to impose themselves on the Public Park. The Orange Order must recognise that they do not have a positive relationship with the nationalist residents of Portadown. Shared space does not mean abused space and there has to be discussion around all of the issues which directly impact on local residents.”
Explaining that Sinn Féin have already met with the Parades Commission and the PSNI in the run up to this decision, Cllr McGibbon concluded,
“This decision was wrong, utterly foolish and nothing less than an act of unionism attempting to dominate in Craigavon. We have met with the Parades Commission and the PSNI over recent days to ensure they are prepared for any attempt at an illegal procession to the park, on the same night as the Mini-Twelfth. It is time for unionism and the Orange Order to recognise the rights of nationalist residents in Portadown. Sinn Féin support the alternative suggested by the Community Associations of the area that a cross denominational, cross community event be arranged by the Council.”