Northern Ireland

Orange Order 'own goal' over rejecting parading deal, says district master

Bandsmen march past a Catholic church during a parade Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption The marching season will reach its peak with the Orange Order's annual 12 July parades

A leading Orangeman has said the Orange Order's rejection of plans to reform parading in 2010 was "an own goal".

Darryl Hewitt, who is the Portadown district master, said the plans brought forward by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin six years ago should be re-examined.

His comments come just weeks before the marching season reaches its peak on 12 July.

Back in 2010, the DUP and Sinn Féin agreed series of plans on parading.

Those plans included the end of the Parades Commission, which rules on contentious parades, new mediation procedures and a code of conduct for residents and marchers.

However, the Orange Order rejected the deal and now Mr Hewitt said it is time to revisit the plan.

Image caption Darryl Hewitt said the Orange Order's rejection of the parading plans was "an own goal"

He told BBC Northern Ireland's The View programme: "It was the Orange institution that rejected it.

"I would view it as a bit of an own goal but we are where we are.

"We have to move on - we can't keep looking backwards, so we have to move forward."

If the Orange Order and other loyal orders are key to any solution then so too are residents groups.

Joe Marley, from the Crumlin and Ardoyne Residents Association in Belfast, said talking is paramount.

"The preferred option is always a local accommodation, but in the absence of that you will always need some kind of independent adjudicator," he said.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption The DUP and Sinn Féin will be tested on the issues of parading, Sam McBride said

"I think there was work being done in the past number of years actually that needs to be taken forward."

Journalist Sam McBride, from the News Letter newspaper, who has written extensively on the subject in recent weeks, said parading will test how the DUP and Sinn Féin can work together.

"I think the DUP and Sinn Fein have got a three-year window now without an election," he said.

"If they don't [find a solution] to it now, I think you can really question are they ever going to do it."

However, both parties have said they cannot find a solution on their own.

DUP MLA Emma Little Pengelly said: "I think the critical thing here is that it is not about Sinn Féin and the DUP sitting down and agreeing a new beginning for parading.

Image caption Joe Marley said there is a need for "some kind of independent adjudicator" on parading

"This is very much about getting the people involved, the key stakeholders, the people who parade, the Orange Order and the residents."

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said there is less tension around parading and he hopes progress can be made on the matter.

"There is a better atmosphere for dealing with these things," he said.

"I think there is a better atmosphere up there at the assembly as well.

"Let's hope we can move forward on that basis, but I don't have a magic wand."

An Orange Order spokesman said: "Whilst fully supportive of local solutions where possible, Grand Lodge remains committed to a process that will see the current corrupt parading legislation replaced with laws and regulations which are fair and equitable to all communities."

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption There is less tension around parading now than in the past, according to Gerry Kelly

A spokesman for the Parades Commission said: "Parading remains a sensitive area, but greater co-operation within many communities has contributed to increased stability."

In Londonderry, dialogue around parading is seen as key.

This has resulted in an accommodation between residents, businesses and the Apprentice Boys.

Businessman Garvan O'Doherty is involved in discussions and said talking and giving respect are crucial.

"You have got to listen to what the other side is saying," he said.

"You have to hear what they are saying and try and understand what they are about.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption A parading deal that has support from residents and the loyal orders would be a sign of major progress

"This is what we did in Derry and this is what is needed to be done in the north of Ireland and across the rest of the parading issues."

He said senior political leaders, including the first and deputy first ministers, must act quickly.

"Politically, I think there is a great opportunity for Arlene [Foster] and Martin [McGuinness].

"I would like them to grasp this issue, which mirrors the Derry model but has its little intricacies for local issues.

First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness have much unfinished business to deal with.

Striking a deal on parading that carries the support of residents and the loyal orders could enhance their claim that a fresh start really has been made.