Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

New Orange leader in parades pledge

Outgoing Orange Order Grand Master Robert Saulters

The Orange Order's new leader has vowed to find a fresh way to resolve marching disputes in Northern Ireland but insisted he would not be talking to Sinn Fein, nationalist residents' groups or the Parades Commission to do so.

Co Tyrone farmer Edward Stevenson made clear his election as Grand Master would not herald a step change in the organisation's approach to contentious parades.

The 55-year-old married father-of-three from the village of Ardstraw was elected unopposed at a meeting of senior Orangemen in Co Londonderry. He replaces Robert Saulters who held the job for 14 years.

Within hours of taking over, the former deputy grand master demonstrated he was not for changing direction by rebuffing a fresh invite for talks from Sinn Fein.

The Order's leadership has consistently refused to engage with the republican party or hold talks with nationalist residents' groups or recognise the Parade's Commission - the official body that adjudicates on contentious marches in the region.

"The leadership may have changed but the Grand Lodge's policy is still the same and that is because it still remains a good policy," he said.

"We will definitely not be getting involved with the Parades Commission or those other two groups (Sinn Fein or residents' groups)."

But he said he was committed to finding a solution.

"A lot of other people talk about having a fair and equal society, but it has to be fair and equitable to all and that means that others start to tolerate us too," he said.

Mr Stevenson, a County Grand Master of Tyrone, becomes Orangeism's figurehead at a time when disagreements over parades continue to cause political tensions.

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