Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Robinson and McGuinness hold talks as the marching season steps up

The First and Deputy First Ministers are to hold their first ever joint meeting with the Parades Commission this week as the marching season gets into full swing.

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have only met members of the commission separately in the past to discuss specific contentious parades.

Tomorrow's joint meeting at Stormont Castle has been planned for some time and was the result of an approach by the commission to the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM).

"The Parades Commission sought this meeting," a spokesman for the organisation said.

"It is not directly in response to any contentious parades.

"We have had two months of roadshows and have met a lot of politicians recently, including the leadership of the SDLP and senior UUP figures."

The ministers will meet with the commission's chairman, Peter Osborne, who has also been calling for talks with the Grand Lodge of the Orange Order.

The order has an official policy of refusing to speak to the Parades Commission.

"I don't think it does a service to the Orange institution that they don't talk to everybody and they don't engage with us," Mr Osborne said.

"I think, increasingly within the Orange family, I think people are frustrated at that and certainly the engagement we have with Orange institutions, with Orange parading organisations, would suggest that."

Last July the Orange Order rejected proposals for new legislation on how to deal with contentious parades set out by a joint DUP and Sinn Fein working group.

Earlier this month an Orange Order parade through a nationalist interface in Ardoyne, north Belfast, was rerouted by the Parades Commission.

Several police officers suffered minor injuries as stones and bottles were thrown.

The Parades Commission is a non-departmental public body which can restrict or ban parades in Northern Ireland. It was set up as a result of the civil strife that came out of the Drumcree protests during the 1990s. The Secretary of State is responsible for appointing the seven members of the commission.

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