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Martin McGuinness 'would give serious consideration' to Twelfth of July invite

Published 21/01/2016

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he appreciated the importance of the Twelfth of July commemoration to the unionist community
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he appreciated the importance of the Twelfth of July commemoration to the unionist community

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness has said he would seriously consider attending a Protestant loyal order Twelfth of July commemoration if invited.

Stormont's Deputy First Minister said he appreciated the importance of the day to the unionist community and took pride in how events had recently passed off peacefully in his native Londonderry.

In an interview with Co Fermanagh-based newspaper the Impartial Reporter, the former IRA commander said he would not impose himself on the celebrations but would consider going along if invited.

Events to mark the victory of King William III over Catholic James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 have long been the source of intensified community tensions in certain parts of Northern Ireland.

While the majority of loyal order parades pass off peacefully, a number of flashpoints remain on the routes of disputed marches, with some recent Twelfths marred by outbreaks of both loyalist and republican violence in Belfast.

"It's important not to impose yourself on for example the Twelfth of July but what I do think is important is that people are big enough to invite you," Mr McGuinness said.

"I'd prefer to go to places where I am invited."

Asked if he would attend if invited, Mr McGuinness replied: "I would give very serious consideration."

But the sight of Mr McGuinness at a traditional parade is not likely to materialise in the near future, as the Orange Order has dismissed outright any notion of it extending an invite.

The institution referred to the deaths of more than 300 Orangemen at the hands of republican paramilitaries during the Troubles as one of the main reasons such an invite would be "beyond the pale".

"Many of our murdered brethren were serving or retired members of the Crown Forces," a spokesman said.

"Sinn Fein have never apologised, nor shown genuine remorse, for the murder of the Crown forces.

"To offer an invitation to Martin McGuinness would insult their memory and bring further hurt and distress to many families."

The organisation also cited the "organised and deliberate role taken by the republican movement in their continuing opposition to our parades".

"This remains very much evident with leading Sinn Fein representatives continuing to actively oppose and protest against our processions," he added.

"The Orange Institution is actively involved in bridge building at many levels, but there are some things that as an organisation and as a unionist community are at present beyond the pale."

On Thursday, Mr McGuinness tweeted: "To clarify, I was asked by a journalist if I would attend an Orange Parade. I said if an invite came I would consider it. #ReachingOut #Peace"

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