16 December 2005

Belfast Telegraph

Order 'disingenuous' over meetings

By Chris Thornton
16 December 2005

Members of the Orange Order have been involved in "umpteen" meetings with the Parades Commission in spite of the group's official ban on contact, outgoing Parades Commission chairman Sir Anthony Holland reveals today.

The Commission chairman, who finishes almost six years of leading the marching body on New Year's Eve, said the Order has been "disingenuous" about its position.

In an interview in today's Belfast Telegraph, he also accused some residents' groups of throwing up "artificial barriers" to parades and indicated he is not "wildly enthusiastic" about the presence of two Portadown Orangemen on the new Commission.

Sir Tony said former Portadown District Master David Burrows is the only member of the new Commission he had met previously - as part of the "unofficial contacts with the Orange".

"We've had secret meetings, private meetings, non-attributable meetings, all sorts of meetings with members of the Orange Order, sometimes as members of the Orange Order, sometimes in different capacities," he said.

He said some residents' groups have turned meetings with marchers into a stalling process.

"But they get away with that, in inverted commas, because until there's proper engagement from the Orange they don't have to actually crystallise the arguments and the rationale they've got against the parade," he said.

Asked about the presence of two Portadown Orangemen on the new Commission, Sir Tony said: "There used to be a saying you used to see in Yes, Minister: 'That's a brave decision, Minister', meaning of course that the civil servant wasn't wildly enthusiastic. "I think it's a brave decision, actually.

"But it could work."

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