Northern Ireland

Orange Order sees opportunity for parade law change if there is a hung parliament

Drew Nelson
Image caption Orange Order Grand Secretary Drew Nelson says an impasse at Westminster will help to focus minds

A senior Orangeman says a hung parliament may provide an opportunity for unionists to push for new parades legislation more favourable to the Loyal Orders.

Drew Nelson says an impasse at Westminster "will help to focus minds".

As part of its Northern Ireland Plan, which will form the basis for negotiation should next month's general election prove inconclusive, the Democratic Unionist Party says it will ask Westminster for "legislation for a new way forward on parading which respects the fundamental rights of assembly".

'Flawed'

The Orange Order says the the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 is weighted heavily in favour of nationalist protestors.

Mr Nelson, the order's Grand Secretary, told the BBC One Northern Ireland programme The View "whichever party is in power they should review and amend this legislation because the legislation is flawed - not to buy some votes to keep them in power for a few years but because it's the right thing to do".

"Opportunities arise at different times and if there is a hung parliament, which is speculation at the moment, it may be that will help to focus the minds," he added.

"Anyone who can achieve some advantage by using some leverage would be foolish if they didn't take that opportunity and, if the unionist family which is returned to Westminster have an opportunity by virtue of their numbers to exercise greater influence than they are able to when it is not a hung parliament, then they should take that opportunity"

But others tell the programme that in their view neither the Conservatives or Labour are likely to negotiate on parades to buy DUP support.

'Compromise'

Garvan O'Doherty, a Londonderry businessman who helped broker agreement on parades in the city, said he would "suggest the two main parties will stay clear of this issue".

Image caption Peter Osborne believes local dialogue is the way forward

"It is too hot for them and it is up to us locally to resolve once and for all," he said.

"We've go to stop going round in circles. We need to make a stand and we need to compromise."

A former parades commission chair Peter Osborne agrees.

"If you go back 20 years, you see in Portadown and elsewhere from then on that if you take these issues into high level political involvement it won't work," he said.

"This is about a local parades issue. Local dialogue is the way forward on this issue and I think there is room to resolve this and make a really big statement for the people of Northern Ireland."