02 May 2006

Loyal Orders and SDLP set to meet

BBC

Loyal Orders representatives are to meet the SDLP for the first time
Representatives of the Loyal Orders are to meet the SDLP for the first time to discuss the Protestant marching season.

Drew Nelson of the Orange Order said he was committed to such meetings to explain the wider community the importance of parading in his culture.

SDLP spokesman Alex Attwood said people must work together "to recognise each other's cultures and traditions".

"Sustained face-to-face dialogue" with community groups was vital in resolving "local marching disputes", he said.

But he added that the talks, being held at Stormont, were "not an alternative to dialogue with residents' groups".

"The SDLP would encourage the Loyal Orders to acknowledge that it is genuine, sustained, face-to-face dialogue with local host communities and representative groups that is the single most important commitment required to resolve local marching disputes," he said.

'End boycott'

Mr Nelson said he hoped that Tuesday's discussions with the SDLP would not be a "one off" meeting.

"I hope that it will lead to further contact," he said.

"It is very important for the Orange Order to explain to the wider community, the importance of parading to our culture."

Mr Attwood also called on the Orange Order to "end its boycott of the Parades Commission".

The assembly member said the fact that the Loyal Orders were meeting his party could not "justify any significant shift by the Parades Commission around any disputed parades".

The Protestant marching season is one of the fixed elements of Northern Ireland life, and in recent years some parades have led to disputes and street violence.

The government-appointed Parades Commission was set up in 1997 to make decisions on whether controversial parades should be restricted.

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