27/09/2012

Orange Order Changes Discussion Policy

The Orange Order has changed its institutional policy on discourse with residents’ groups regarding contentious parades.

A senior figure in the Order has announced its members are no longer forbidden from discussing parading issues with residents' associations.

"Flexibility" has been the key word today, as the Orange Order prepares for Saturday’s parade through Belfast to mark the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant.

The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland decided formally in March that "flexibility be allowed over engagement at a local level".

Recently, the Order had refused to engage with the Carrick Hill residents’ group, following tensions which flared up between unionists and nationalists over the summer.

Yesterday, Mervyn Gibson, the county grand chaplain of the Orange Order, said in future issues regarding parade routes could be openly discussed with nationalist residents groups.

David McNarry, who is a former assistant grand master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland said: "The grand lodge has empowered any district, putting forward a reasonable case to enter into discussions on a localised basis on local issues, to do so if it feels comfortable."

The independent MLA added: "The best people to do this are the people on the ground."

The announcement follows problems which arised during the summer, when a loyalist band marched and played music outside St Patrick’s Church in north Belfast’s Donegal Street.

The Parades Commission has ruled that, during Saturday’s parade, only hymns are to be played as while bands pass the Catholic church.

The Commission has also ordered that no loyalist supporters shall be allowed on that section of the route. The number of nationalist protestors permitted has been limited to 150.

Reverend Mervyn Gibson said making sure the parade passed off peacefully was the priority.

(IT)

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