Grand Orange Lodge rejects proposals by Sinn Féin and DUP on parading

 

THE ORANGE Order has been thrown into disarray after its Grand Orange Lodge rejected proposals that would have led to the disbandment of the Parades Commission.

Grand Orange Lodge members, by 37 votes to 32, with four abstentions, rejected draft proposals published in April by First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to create a new system of dealing with contentious parades that would replace the Parades Commission.

Ulster Unionist leadership candidate Tom Elliott, who attended the Grand Orange Lodge meeting in Co Tyrone on Tuesday night, rejected claims by a number of Orange Order sources that the rejection of the proposals was a “UUP/TUV ambush” of the DUP.

The proposals flowed from the Hillsborough Castle Agreement and were devised by a working group of three senior DUP and three senior Sinn Féin members which met the key demand of the order that the Parades Commission be abolished.

The main proposal is to replace the commission with two bodies. The first would have a dialogue and mediation role in terms of all parades.

Where it failed to find agreement or compromise then the second body, which would be “representative” of the community, would adjudicate on contentious parades.

The draft document was put out for consultation with next Wednesday the deadline for responses. But in Tamlaghtmore Orange hall in Co Tyrone on Tuesday Grand Lodge members rejected the proposals outright without putting forward any alternative proposals.

Orange Order sources said that the proposals had the implicit support of most of the order’s senior officers. They said that because so many members had other pre-Twelfth of July commitments fewer than than 80 Grand Lodge members attended Tuesday night’s meeting. Sources said that there are up to 300 members of the Grand Lodge and normally such meetings would attract 130-150 members. Another complicating factor was that Grand Secretary of the order Drew Nelson, a supporter of the parading changes who could have galvanised support for the proposals, could not attend due to illness.

“The word was out to get opponents to attend the meeting. This was simply a UUP/TUV ambush of the DUP and had little to do with parading or Orange Order matters,” said one source.

“It was clear that Ulster Unionist and Traditional Unionist Voice supporters at the meeting were determined to reject the proposals even though they are designed to get rid of the Parades Commission. This was definitely an ambush,” added a second Orange source. “We don’t know where this will lead. If the position from Tuesday night holds then this is a vote of no confidence in the Orange Order leadership, because the leadership generally are behind the proposals, and also a vote to hold on to the Parades Commission,” he said.

Fermanagh Assembly member Mr Elliott, who is to stand for the leadership of the UUP in the autumn and who attended the Tamlaghtmore meeting, said the claims of an ambush of the DUP were “rubbish”. “This certainly was not an anti-DUP matter.”