Orange Order challenged on marches

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The Independent Online

The Orange Order was today challenged to make a contribution to the peace process by stopping attempts to march through Catholic areas.

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said that while the IRA, loyalists, political parties and governments have made significant steps forward over 15 years, the Orange Order has refused to budge.

Delivering a speech at the annual Wolfe Tone commemoration at Bodenstown, Co Kildare, the Sinn Fein MP said the leadership of the Orange Order can no longer abdicate its responsibilities. Mr McGuinness said: "Now is the time for the Orange Order to step forward. There are hundreds of Orange parades each year. Only a few cause controversy. It is these I want to focus on.

"The days of republicans stretching ourselves and our communities to maintain calm in the face of sectarian provocation cannot last forever. It is time for the issue of contested parades to be dealt with once and for all."

Stormont's Deputy First Minister called on the Orange Order to declare they will no longer seek to force parades through Catholic areas.

"Anything less from the Orange Order is an abdication of their responsibility and will have to be viewed as such by both governments – and in such a scenario that means a clear statement from both that nationalist communities will no longer be subjected to these sorts of triumphalist parades and measures taken to ensure that this happens," he added.

An Orange Order spokesman said the Deputy First Minister's comments were a disappointing attack on the Protestant community. "For years, Sinn Fein policy has been to make life as difficult as possible for parade organisers," the spokesman claimed.

"They have totally failed to understand that parading is an integral part of the Protestant culture.

"The Orange Order is working very hard to make its parades more family friendly and welcoming, particularly to tourists, and these remarks from the Deputy First Minister are extremely unhelpful."

Elsewhere, Mr McGuinness told Sinn Fein members that the Fianna Fáil and Green coalition has lost its moral authority to govern. He said the Government was sent a strong and clear message from the people in the recent elections that it needs to go, adding a new political alliance for change must be built to turn the country around.