28/09/2010

Orangemen Again Reject Parading Bill

The Orange Order and the leader of the DUP are at odds this week after it emerged that the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland is continuing to reject a new draft parades bill.

The Stormont First Minister has been frustrated by news that the loyal order's ruling body voted at the weekend to stand-by its rejection of the draft.

Peter Robinson, the Stormont First Minister, said that their decision on Saturday not to review their decision was "disappointing".

Last summer's vote by 37 members of the Grand Lodge against parading proposals agreed between the DUP and Sinn Fein following the Hillsborough Agreement, have again been snubbed.

The Order leaders said at the time they would meet to discuss the vote and look at the code of conduct, which is out for consultation until September - and have now decided to continue to 'Say No'.

Last night, Peter Robinson said: "I am disappointed by this outcome as considerable effort was made at Hillsborough to solve the issues around parades and protests.

"We had developed a new and improved framework to deal with parades," he said, but underlined that the framework was "based on specifications outlined by the Orange Order".

He said that, for the draft bill to be in place for January 2011, it would need to be submitted to the Executive before the end of September.

"That legislative timeframe has been missed therefore I expect the Secretary of State will reappoint the Parades Commission in January."

He revealed on Monday that, on 15th September, he had written to the Grand Master outlining the impact of the Grand Lodge position on the draft bill.

"The consultation on the draft bill has ended and Grand Lodge declined to submit any recommendations to improve the legislation.

"This draft framework will remain on the shelf and we remain ready and willing to engage on this matter," he said, noting that the reappointment of the Parades Commission will "sadden many within the Loyal Orders" as the Commission has "proved to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution to parades disputes".
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"Whilst some chose to oppose this draft legislation for party political reasons, this was always a choice between the Parades Commission and a new improved system which many within the Loyal Orders recognised as being preferable to the current arrangements," Mr Robinson continued.

"It is disappointing that this legislation will not now be introduced and the inevitable consequence of this is that the Secretary of State will reappoint the Parades Commission and regrettably, it will be given a new lease of life."

He concluded by saying that he saw "no advantage in moving from one system which the Orange Order does not engage with to another which, at the present time, does not have its support".

Meanwhile, the SDLP Equality spokesperson Dolores Kelly has said the collapse of proposed DUP/Sinn Fein legislation on parading provides an "opportunity" to go back and get it right without any more political fixes.

"We should now take a step back and come up with a solution for all the people of the north and not just for sectional interests with an inside track.

"Any sensible system has got to have adjudication on disputed parade. We have an adjudicating body which works.

"The SDLP may have disagreed with some of its determinations, but by and large the Parades Commission has worked, reducing the number of contentious parades and giving us ten years of peace on the Garvaghy Road, for instance.

"The Orange Order may have done Sinn Fein a great favour," she said.

Sinn Fein's spokesperson on Parades John O'Dowd said: "The Orange Order rejection of new parades legislation should not be allowed to veto the establishment and endorsement by the Assembly of a new framework to address the issue of parades.

"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, also attacking the DUP for "hiding behind the Orange Order".

He said the party should now support the introduction of the Parades Bill into the Assembly."

But, the process of reappointing the Parades Commission has already begun with NI Secretary Owen Paterson expected to confirm the move later on Tuesday.

See: DUP Seeks Talks On Orange Marches

(BMcC/KMcA)

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