Senior Orangeman hints at talks
on 26/09/2012 17:43:01
Mervyn Gibson said the Order had changed its rules on talks with groups it believed were associated with republicans.
He also signalled a willingness to look at alternatives to the Parades Commission, after a new process for adjudicating on marchers negotiated at the Hillsborough political talks was rejected by the Order.
Asked if marchers should make the move to open discussions with residents groups to end annual stand-offs at various flashpoints, he said: "Two things. We have no law in the institution that now prevents us from talking to residents groups with Sinn Fein in them or anybody else in them.
"So, up until earlier this year there was a bar on talking to Sinn Fein/IRA controlled residents groups.
"We decided to remove that. We did that out of the glare of publicity to allow people to get on to have quiet conversations. And we believe that is beginning to show fruits around the country.
"However in this situation (around St Patrick's Catholic church), it became the focus 'we should talk', as opposed to the focus being respect for St Patrick's chapel.
"So I think those conversations will - the Orange Order has taken that step - but we'll do it out of the glare of publicity and not in the pressure pot when those discussions are made public and open, and there is a slanging match, that's not the way to move forward on this.
"Conversation is what's called for and we'll certainly step up to the mark when it comes to that."
At the Hillsborough negotiations which saw the DUP and Sinn Fein agree the devolution of policing and justice powers to Stormont, an agreement on a new system for handling parades was also reached.
But while the Orange Order subsequently rejected the blueprint, First Minister Peter Robinson has raised the prospect of returning to the issue.
Mervyn Gibson also signalled a willingness to revisit the failed Hillsborough parades initiative when he was asked if it, or a similar alternative to the Parades Commission, may be renegotiated.
He said: "Absolutely, we don't just wait on the next parade coming up. We had a parades committee, they looked at our regulations with regard to parades, our laws. They decided to make recommendations to change that one, that was done.
"With regard to future legislation, I think everybody after Saturday will be looking at how to replace this Parades Commission - and we just don't mean the personalities, we mean the actual legislation - root and branch change will be revisited, hopefully by everyone."