Northern Ireland

Parades legislation on hold over Orange Order move

Orangemen

The DUP leader Peter Robinson has said legislation to replace the Parades Commission has been put on hold after the Orange Order refused to review their decision to reject it.

First Minister Peter Robinson said it is now inevitable that the Parades Commission will be reappointed for another year.

"I am disappointed by the 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.

"This framework was based on specifications outlined by the Orange Order," he added.

Mr Robinson said the draft bill should have been submitted to the Executive by September, in order to be ready for January 2011.

The first minister said that the time frame has now been missed because the Grand Lodge, which met at the weekend, did not review its decision to reject the Bill.

He revealed he had written to the Grand Master on 15 September telling him the Bill would be left in abeyance until if, or when, the order decided to proceed.

'No advantage'

Mr Robinson said the reappointment of the Parades Commission would "sadden many" within the orders as the Commission has proved to be "part of the problem rather than part of the solution" to parades disputes.

"I see 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, " the minister said.

Sinn Fein MLA John O'Dowd said the Orange Order's rejection of new 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," he said.

"The Orange Order was not party to that Agreement and they cannot be afforded a veto over progress to resolve this issue."

The TUV's Jim Allister said: "No matter how much Peter Robinson and the DUP lash out in a fit of pique, the inescapable truth is that it is the DUP which has failed to deliver a better way forward on parading.

"It was they who promised they'd sorted parading as a quid pro quo over gifting Sinn Fein its demands on policing and justice.

"Now, we find Sinn Fein got what they wanted but their cheque on parading to the DUP has bounced."

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said his party believed the Parades Commission was deeply flawed and had left the loyal orders in "a very disadvantaged situation".

"We believe this is a good system, but unfortunately, at the moment, the Orange Order has not given its consent and agreement to that system."

He added, however, he had no doubt "some people have sought to play party politics with this".

"We know for example that the new leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, Tom Elliot, is a senior Orangeman.

"He opposed the new legislation and indeed he even supported a motion way back earlier this year which said that the order shouldn't even make a response to the consultation, in other words, shouldn't even put forward a view on this issue."

The SDLP's Dolores Kelly said the collapse of the proposed legislation provided an opportunity "to go back and get it right without any more political fixes".

"This was bespoke legislation, full of contradictions because it was tailored for the Orange Order in a secret working group with an order observer present," she said.

"They demanded the Parades Commission's head on a plate and that was the price of power that the DUP extracted from Sinn Fein at Hillsborough."

The original proposals were contained in the Draft Public Assemblies Bill and had been agreed by the DUP and Sinn Fein.

They were rejected by 37 votes to 32 by members of the Grand Lodge of Ireland in July.

The draft legislation focused on dialogue and a code of conduct for both residents and marchers. It also spelled the end of the Parades Commission.

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