Sinn Féin has dismissed accusations that it is negotiating a deal with the DUP to allow the Protestant Orange Order march through the nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown.
A spokesman said the reports were “complete lies” and said while the party discussed all manner of issues with other political parties this was one where politicians could have no influence.
“This is not an issue that can be resolved by political parties,” he said.
The SDLP had earlier warned Sinn Féin not to “barter away” the rights of Garvaghy Road residents. The resignation from Sinn Féin of Garvaghy residents’ representative Breandan Mac Cionnaith prompted fears a deal was in the works to once again force sectarian parades through the area.
Portadown Orangemen continue to refuse to talk to local residents over the issue, which has faded in recent years after sit-down protests by Garvaghy residents during the mid-nineties ultimately proved successful over the brutal attacks of the RUC police and loyalist groups.
SDLP Upper Bann assembly member Dolores Kelly said nationalist residents had a right to dialogue with Drumcree Orangemen and that it must not be dismissed for short-term political gain.
“There is a build-up of hints, briefings and media reports that a political deal is in the offing between Sinn Féin and the DUP to let the Orange Order down the Garvaghy Road without entering into dialogue with the residents,” she said.
“This is just not on. Dialogue is a requirement of principle and it cannot just be traded away in some sort of secret, back-room deal.”
The Sinn Féin spokesman said the issue could only be resolved by the people who live on the Garvaghy Road and the Orange Order “just as it is in Ardoyne or anywhere else”.
“It is between the Orange Order and the community they wish to march through,” he said.
The Orange Order last paraded along the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road in 1997 but has had route restrictions imposed by the Parades Commission ever since.
Five hundred Orangemen and 75 bands took part in the annual Drumcree parade last year.
Meanwhile, there is nationalist concern at the appointment of former leader of the British Liberal Democrats party, Paddy Ashdown as chairperson of the the Strategic Review of Parades Body, which is to review parading policy in the North.
Ashdown is a former Royal Marine who once served in the British forces of occupation in the North. A former member of the SAS, Ashown has also worked as a foreign diplomat and has been listed in published documents as an operative for British military intelligence, MI6.
Commenting on the announcement, Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey said that he had concerns about Ashdown’s appointment.
“Sinn Féin would clearly have reservations about the ability of Paddy Ashdown to act as an impartial and independent chairperson of such a group given his military and political involvement in Ireland in the past.
“However many of the local appointees to the group do have a grasp and an experience of the difficult issue of contentious parades.
“The key to resolving contentious parades is through local dialogue between marching orders and the communities they wish to march through.
That is the lesson of the past ten years or more. Sinn Féin will engage with any group including this one in a bid to ensure that future parading issues are resolved on this basis.”