THE Orange Order has snubbed a request from First Minister Peter Robinson to reconsider its stance on parades.

It has emerged that the first minister wrote to Grand Lodge asking them to back the proposals which resulted from the Hillsborough talks.

But the Order rejected the plea with a spokesman saying members felt they had been taken for granted during the political negotiations at Hillsborough.

An Orange Order spokesman told the News Letter yesterday that it had received a letter from the first minister, urging it to accept proposals for the reform of parades legislation, proposals which it has persistently rejected.

And it confirmed that the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland had discussed the letter at its quarterly meeting in Eglinton in Co Londonderry on Saturday, but that the Order had not changed its position.

It has repeatedly rejected the proposals, which came out of DUP-Sinn Fein negotiations in January at Hillsborough relating to devolution of policing and justice and reform of parades legislation.

After an inquiry from the News Letter yesterday, First Minister Peter Robinson released a statement to all media yesterday afternoon expressing disappointment with Grand Lodge.

However, this prompted a wave of calls to the News Letter from numerous sources within the Order, all saying the same thing. One source said: “The letter from Peter Robinson asked the Order to reverse their position of July 6, otherwise he could not go ahead without the support of the unionist community and the Order.

“Someone proposed the Grand Lodge adopt the DUP position but they could not even get a seconder, out of about 100 people. They tried three times and still could not get one person to second it.”

Another source said: “The Order was angered by Peter Robinson presuming to tell his own party that the Order was 'in the bag' and onside during the Hillsborough negotiations.

“The Order felt it had been taken for granted and used as a political football. The DUP claims the Order gave it a remit to negotiate with Sinn Fein for a new start on parading, but nobody inside the Order seems to be aware of this.”

Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy said that as an Orangeman, but not a member of Grand Lodge, he would like to “nail” any suggestion that this was “a political intrigue by the UUP or any other party” to defeat the DUP proposals.

He added: “To be fair to the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, all issues are considered on the basis of what is best for the Order. The DUP has underestimated the political independence and the independence of thought of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland.”

The Orange Order declined to make any submissions on the proposals on two occasions and has not published any suggestions on the way forward.
UUP MLA and Assistant Grand Master of the Grand Lodge, David McNarry said: “We have taken a consistent line in pointing out the obvious and dangerous flaws in these proposals.”

Until his party see the proposals formally tabled in the assembly, his party will be unable to comment beyond an earlier statement, which called on the revised proposals to be put out for full consultation.

TUV leader Jim Allister said the “DUP/Sinn Fein proposals” were no improvement on the parades commission, because they require more substantial consultation with potentially politically influenced residents' groups and made it possible for convicted terrorists to be parade adjudicators.

“Little wonder such skewed and ill-considered proposals met with rejection,” he added.

A DUP spokesman responded that the party had delivered much for the Orange Order, including derating of Orange halls, substantial tourism funding for July 12 and further funding for bands.

“We utterly reject any suggestion that we have used the Orange Order as a political football,” he said.

“We wanted to see a resolution to the parading problem.

“We view them (the Order] as an important element of the electorate but this legislation is now going to be left sitting on the shelf, if they want to reply or suggest improvements. These people have turned this issue into a political football.”

Peter Robinson said yesterday that many members of the Loyal Orders would be “saddened” that the parades commission would remain.

But Sinn Fein parades spokesman John O'Dowd MLA said the legislation is an important part of the outworking of the Hillsborough Castle Agreement. “The Orange Order were not party to that agreement and they cannot be afforded a veto over progress to resolve this issue,” he said.
“The DUP should stop hiding behind the Orange Order and support the introduction of the Parades Bill into the Assembly.

“The parties that made the agreement at Hillsborough can ensure the Parades Bill passes through the Assembly and becomes legislation.”

Published on the 28th of September 2010
Article taken from the News Letter

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