04 June 2005

Daily Ireland

Orange Order rejects talks offer

By Connla Young

The Orange Order has rejected an offer of face-to-face talks with the Parades Commission ahead of this year’s marching season.
Commission chief Anthony Holland wrote to grand master of the Orange Order, Robert Saulters, earlier this week asking for a face-to-face sit-down meeting to discuss issues surrounding parades.
Parades Commission chiefs are anxious to open up a formal line of communication ahead of a what many observers fear will be a long, hot summer on the marching front.
Plans by the Orange Order to hold a massive July 12 demonstration in Derry city are already causing concern.
Although details have yet to be finalised, it is understood Orangemen in the city are keen to bring the County Derry demonstration to the city for the first time in 13 years.
A spokesman for the Orange Order last night refused to confirm the parade plans and was also unable to confirm if the Orange Order will follow the Apprentice Boys’ lead and engage with the nationalist Bogside Residents’ Group (BRG).
However, the spokesman was definite that there would be no talks with the Parades Commission.
He explained that members of the Orange Order were angry that the Parades Commission chief had made details of his request for a meeting public.
“We see this as a very crude attempt to blackmail us into a meeting. It has enraged members of the institution, including senior officers, and what little chance he had of a meeting has been completely scuppered by his actions. We do not engage with the Parades Commission.”
A spokesperson for the Mr Holland said it was normal for the commission boss to issue pre-marching season statements.
“It’s rational that the chairman of the Parades Commission would make a statement at the start of the marching season. Our reason for existing is to promote and facilitate dialogue and that is what we do at all levels and we wish we could do it with the loyal orders.”
Meanwhile PSNI chief constable, Hugh Orde, yesterday said the policing of marches and protests against them will be professional and impartial.
“We are hoping for a season like last year – a largely peaceful marching season – where everyone worked together to achieve the objective, which was the right to march and the right to protest equally.”

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