Orangemen reject call to reroute all contested marches


THE ORANGE Order has rejected a call by the North’s Deputy First Minister that it withdraw marches from Catholic areas.

Mr McGuinness made his plea when addressing the annual Sinn Féin commemoration at the grave of Wolfe Tone, in Bodenstown, Co Kildare, yesterday.

He said it was time for the Orange Order to step forward, adding that the organisation had hundreds of parades annually, with only a few causing controversy.

He added: “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 now time for the issue of contested parades to be dealt with once and for all. That means the Orange Order making its contribution to peace.

“It means a declaration from the Orange Order that, in future, it will no longer seek to force parades through Catholic areas and risk bringing violence on to our streets.”

Mr McGuinness warned that anything less from the Orange Order was “an abdication of its responsibility and would have to be viewed as such by both governments”.

In such a scenario, he added, a clear statement would be required from the two governments that nationalist communities would no longer be subjected to those sort of triumphalist parades and the appropriate measures taken.

An Orange Order spokesman described Mr McGuinness’s remarks as “a disappointing attack on the Protestant community”.

He added: “For years, Sinn Féin policy has been to make life as difficult as possible for parade organisers.

“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.”

Mr McGuinness said that in the past 15 years there had been many important contributions to the peace process.

“The IRA made significant contributions,” he added.

“So, too, the loyalists. So have many political parties and governments.”

However, he said, the Orange Order, “the cement which for decades held the unionist regime together”, had refused to make a contribution.

Mr McGuinness said that sectarianism was a direct consequence of historic British colonialism and modern-day partition.

“Sectarianism is the belief that one type of person is unequal, and, therefore, undeserving of dignity, respect and opportunity,” he added. “Like racism, which shamefully raised its ugly head in south Belfast last week, sectarianism is an ideology of inequality.”

He said that just four weeks ago, a small district in Coleraine, where nationalists lived, was invaded by “a unionist mob intent on murder”.

Elaborating on his comments, Mr McGuinness told The Irish Times that the attacks on Romanian families represented “a thoroughly shameful episode”.

He added that those who had participated in the attacks and intimidation ought to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

“Those responsible should be arrested and brought before the courts as the racist criminals that they clearly are,” he added.