24 March 2006

Orange Order rules out SF talks

Belfast Telegraph

By Chris Thornton
24 March 2006

The Orange Order has ruled out talks with Sinn Fein as it prepares for a groundbreaking meeting with the SDLP.

As Sinn Fein warned Mark Durkan's party about the upcoming meeting with three loyal orders, Orange sources say the marching organisations are not prepared to discuss their position with Sinn Fein.

Several senior Orange figures have said they cannot foresee a time when they would be prepared to meet Sinn Fein, accusing the party of manufacturing the parades dispute.

One claimed Sinn Fein had started a "cultural competition for cultural dominance" against Protestants.

The Orange Order, the Independent Orange Institution and the Royal Black Institution invited the SDLP to a meeting earlier this month to explain their efforts to develop "a new legal framework" for parading. The institutions say the new framework should replace the Parades Commission, but they are not prepared to discuss proposals publicly.

The SDLP had not replied to the invitation this week, but a spokeswoman said they are prepared to meet the loyal orders.

"Our position is very clear on parades," she said. "We believe that there needs to be face-to-face dialogue at a local level without preconditions. We also believe that everybody needs to work constructively with the Parades Commission."

Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd said: "It is important the Orange Order realise that talks with the SDLP are not a substitute for the sort of direct dialogue between the Loyal Orders and those communities they wish to parade through."

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