Calls are mounting for the Orange Order to bring an end to anti-Catholic parades through nationalist neighbourhoods following last week’s riots.
It is almost 15 years since the current round of parades disputes between loyal orders and nationalist residents’ groups erupted on the streets.
Since then there have been at least three different incarnations of the Parades Commission, which adjudicates on parade routes, and four different reviews into the marching issue.
Earlier this month a meeting of the Orange Order’s Grand Lodge rejected Sinn Fein/DUP proposals which would do away with the current commission.
The order’s decision caused widespread consternation in establishment circles. In the Hillsborough Agreement negotiated earlier this year, the parades proposals were linked to DUP support for the transfer of most policing and justice powers from London to the Stormont Assembly in Belfast.
The order even came under increased pressure from Police Federation chairman Terry Spence, who warned that his men would no longer be prepared to play piggy-in-the-middle between orangemen and nationalist residents.
A senior orangeman, Reverend Brian Kennaway, has also claimed that the institution’s leadership is ignoring the views of members. Rev Kennaway said that the order’s continued refusal 10 engage with the Parades Commission meant its credibility was now under threat.
“The present situation with the leadership in terms of parading has a long history,” he said.
“In 2000 the institution surveyed members over whether it should talk to the Parades Commission.
“The majority of the institution said it wanted 10 talk to the commission, but because it didn’t suit the leadership it was binned,
“ln practice rank and file members are dealing with the Parades Commission every day.
“It raises serious questions about the credibility of the leadership in relation to any decision they make about parades.”
However, Rev Kennaway added that he remained unconvinced that the Orange Order would be capable of the necessary changes.
Speaking at a summer school in Donegal at the weekend, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness said his door was open to the Orangemen seeking a resolution.
The sectarianism played out on the streets of Belfast in recent days needed to be tackled, he said, but the Orange Order appeared “rooted to the past and unwilling to join with the rest of us in making necessary compromises in the interests of peace and progress.
“They continue to refuse to talk to nationalists and hold the rest of society to ransom, over a tiny number of contentious parades out of thousands of Loyal Order marches each summer.”
“I have long argued that the Orange Order themselves could transform relationships by taking a bold initiative, by thinking of the greater good and by stepping forward and making their contribution to a new and better future.
“By dealing with the issue of contentious parades in a generous fashion the Orange Order has the potential to build a new relationship with their Catholic neighbours. My door remains open to them always.