Loyalist leader Jackie McDonald wants Orangemen to walk away from the Garvaghy Road in Portadown — unless they can agree a parade with local residents.
The shock remarks from the former UDA ‘brigadier’ comes as Northern Ireland’s politicians struggle to find a way forward on the issue of controversial parades.
A DUP/Sinn Fein working group has been tasked with designing “a new and improved framework” to rule on parades and will report next week.
But on the question of what should happen on the ground, UDA ‘brigadier’ McDonald has made his position clear.
“People used to walk down roads where Protestants lived.
“Now they want to walk down the same road where nationalists live.
“It might be tradition and it might be culture, but why would you?”
He said if Orangemen want to walk on the Garvaghy Road then it should be “by agreement and arrangement with the residents, without any outside interference”.
Recent similar comments by Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams brought an angry response from senior DUP figures including First Minister and party leader Peter Robinson.
McDonald also criticised republicans — accusing them of manipulating the parades issue, and he said Sinn Fein’s involvement with resident groups had “polluted” the atmosphere.
But speaking in a wide-ranging interview for the Belfast Telegraph he argued for a “commonsense” approach.
“They (Sinn Fein) manipulated that situation, and Gerard Rice did the same thing on the Ormeau Road.
“If you take Sinn Fein out of the whole argument, the argument is they (the Orange Order) shouldn’t walk down the Garvaghy Road or the (lower) Ormeau Road anyway, because there are no Protestants (living there) any more.
“That’s the commonsense argument, but Sinn Fein has actually polluted it.”
The loyalist leader also attacked “triumphalism” linked to marching. “What I’ve seen at Garvaghy Road before, or the Ormeau Road — once they got down the road, it was triumphalism straight out.
“That’s not the reason to walk down the road.
“That wasn’t the reason they walked down the road 30 years ago, or 50 years ago or 100 years ago. But they’ve turned it round.
“They’re not walking down the same road for the same reason.
“It’s to get one up on the other community, or being there because the other community says you can’t be.”
After the recent decommissioning confirming an end to wars, McDonald believes that the emphasis now should be on community building, and he plans a major conference in Sandy Row in Belfast in the near future.
But he says he is against “forced integration”, and that it is too soon to think about demolishing the so-called peace walls.
“It’s an ideal that everybody has and it would be a massive thing if it ever happened,” he said.
But he added: “There’s 40 years of hatred and bigotry and anger and revenge. It’s going to take a long time.”
That planned community conference in Sandy Row will bring under one roof leading loyalists and republicans, including Sean ‘Spike’ Murray, one of the most senior figures in the IRA’s war.
The intention had been to hold the event next week, but it is being delayed to accommodate one of the key speakers.
“It’s all about community development,” McDonald said. “And it’s to show everybody the two communities can work together.”