Loyalists snub papers' peace move for parade for parade parde trou trNewspaper initiative snubbed by loyalists

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The Independent Online
A novel joint initiative by Belfast's two morning newspapers aimed at averting confrontation during the loyalist marching season yesterday drew a dusty answer from the Orange Order.

The Unionist News Letter and nationalist Irish News combined to advance a compromise plan to tackle the Order's contentious July march along Portadown's Garvaghy Road.

Last year widespread disturbances resulted when the RUC initially prevented Orangemen from walking along the road but later, after much disorder, reversed the decision and let the parade go through.

Although the question of what will happen this year has occupied minds since last year, an agreed solution has yet to emerge. Earlier this week the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mo Mowlam, told the Commons that if necessary the army would be used to ensure that ports and airports remained open if attempts were made to close them.

In a joint editorial yesterday the two Belfast papers suggested a two- year interim agreement, with one parade allowed to go through and another to be re-routed. It said: "The residents would be free to make a dignified lawful protest about the march, and the Orange Order would be free to make a similar dignified and lawful protest about the re-routing.

"This would require no loss of face and no loss of principle by either side: both sides retain their dignity and nobody loses. It is not a settlement but it would create the breathing space both sides need."

The editor of the News Letter, Geoff Martin, said he hoped that the coming together of the papers would bring a peaceful summer. Welcoming the initiative, Ms Mowlam said: "The vast majority don't want a repeat of last year and we must do all we can to avoid that and I will do all I can to encourage mediation."

The initial reaction from the Orange Order, however, was far from welcoming. Its executive officer, George Patton, said he did not believe the proposal was feasible or acceptable, adding that he regretted that the editorials did not take account of concessions which he said the Order had already made.