Orange Order leaders have expressed concerns over new proposals on controversial marches in Northern Ireland — but have given the First Minister vital breathing space to resolve issues.
With tomorrow’s deadline looming for “agreed outcomes” to be presented to the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister, Peter Robinson was relieved that the institution didn’t flatly reject the bare outline proposals on parading in the Hillsborough Deal during a meeting on Saturday.
From tomorrow, though, the heat will be on the DUP leader and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness as the media and the public demand to know what the joint DUP/Sinn Fein working group has proposed.
The DUP’s initial assessment of the outcome of Saturday’s Grand Lodge meeting in Tamnamore Orange Hall was that it was a good result for them.
Party sources were content that a motion from Ulster Unionist David McNarry to reject the proposals wasn’t put to a vote, but the Co Down Orangeman’s motion could very well be tabled at next month’s quarterly meeting of Grand Lodge.
The DUP will hope that over the next fortnight it can persuade the Loyal Orders that they have a solution to the intractable parading issue that leaves both sides with comfort room.
In its weekend statement, Grand Lodge said that delegates had “several issues of concern about the proposed arrangements that may come from the current parades working group”, a clear warning to Peter Robinson that they are not comfortable with suggestions that district and local lodges might have to speak to residents’ groups.
Grand Secretary Drew Nelson was unequivocal in his opposition to dialogue with residents’ groups in weekend comments he made and the Grand Lodge statement is a shot across the First Minister’s bows warning him that he could be heading into choppy waters.
But the DUP is whispering that changes have to be made to resolve corrosive parades dispute issues and some of the proposals agreed by the Parades Working Group may prove unpalatable to a sizeable section of the Orange Order membership.
The three DUP members of the group, Jeffrey Donaldson, Nelson McCausland and Stephen Moutray, were given a clear message from a lively meeting with County Grand Lodge Officers last Tuesday night.
That message was that they didn’t like much of what they were hearing.