Former DUP Lord Mayor Gavin Robinson to confront Martin McGuinness over Orange Order claims
A former DUP Lord Mayor of Belfast intends to confront Martin McGuinness over his controversial claim that the Orange Order, PUP and the UVF in Belfast are "one and the same".
Despite his outspoken attack on unionists – accusing them of a lack of leadership during loyalist violence over the past year-and-a-half – Mr McGuinness singled out the DUP's Gavin Robinson for praise.
Mr Robinson is now an adviser to Peter Robinson, the First Minster. The two parties share Stormont Castle, so it will not be hard to find an opportunity to talk to the Sinn Fein leader.
Mr McGuinness noted Gavin Robinson's anti-UVF stance in an interview with BBC's The View.
"During the course of that 18 months I never heard an MLA or one MP from the unionist side point out who was responsible for these attacks. It was left to the former mayor of Belfast, Gavin Robinson," he said.
The Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister was referring to statements last autumn in which Gavin Robinson called on people to help the police smash "the UVF's grip" in east Belfast.
"Martin McGuinness's whole interview was quite bizarre," Gavin Robinson said – pointing out that he himself is a Belfast Orangeman.
He added that Peter Robinson had actually made similar comments against UVF violence.
"I have no truck with the UVF, I have never been a member of the PUP, but I am an Orangeman and I am by no means unique. In fact I am reflective of many representatives from other unionist parties, and people within the Orange, who are take the same position.
"I came under no pressure from within the Orange Order for criticising the UVF, none at all," Gavin Robinson stated.
"Martin McGuinness's characterisation is off the wall," he added, attributing them to "a level of frustration" with the absence of agreement at the Haass talks.
Mr McGuinness blamed the stalemate on the unionist parties, but Gavin Robinson suggested that his comments would make progress more difficult.
Last night Peter Robinson lashed out at Mr McGuinness, accusing him of a "visceral hatred of the Orange Institution. The unhelpful and irrational comments made by Martin McGuinness will do nothing to take the negotiations forward".
"He is in political denial and clearly has an exaggerated view of what his role is within the process," the DUP leader said.
"He speaks as if it is every other party's requirement to move to his position – and if they do not then he considers it to be a lack of leadership," said Mr Robinson.
"SF should refrain from further public utterances aimed at heightening tensions. Let's have less of the mind games outside the process and more serious engagement within it."
However, some rural Orangemen conceded that Mr McGuinness had a point.
One said: "McGuinness over-egged the situation but he didn't conjure it out of thin air."
He pointed to the presence of PUP members and former UVF prisoners alongside the Orange Order at a loyalist camp at Twaddell and to statements from the police that the east Belfast UVF had orchestrated street violence last year.
"Unionist leaders have told me that they regard the UVF, the PUP and the Orange Order in Belfast as one and the same thing. I'm not going to say which unionist leaders, but I have been told by unionist politicians that the UVF, the PUP and the Orange Order are effectively one and the same thing in the city of Belfast."