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Talks due in fresh bid to salvage plan for parades

By Noel McAdam

Orange Order leaders are to meet DUP chiefs to attempt to rescue new parades plans agreed with Sinn Fein.

With formal consultations on draft legislation closed, a Grand Lodge delegation is expected to hold talks with the DUP parade negotiators in the next few weeks.

Grand Lodge narrowly rejected the blueprint at its pre-Twelfth meeting but the issue could be back on the agenda in the autumn.

A decision on a key component of the arrangements — a code of conduct — has also still to be reached and the DUP is urging the Orange leadership to examine the package “as a whole”.

A deal on a new system for dealing with contentious parades, involving the demise of the Parades Commission, was expected to become legislation in parallel with the implementation of the transfer of police and justice powers through the Assembly.

Grand Secretary Drew Nelson is expected to meet the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson, Nelson McCausland and Stephen Moutray who drew up plans for a new two-tier system to attempt to move towards more localised agreements.

Mr Donaldson said because of holidays no date has been agreed for the meeting but he expected it would take place in the next few weeks.

“We respect the decision of Grand Lodge but there is still the issue of the code of conduct which is a crucial element in all of this and we hope they will look at the package as a whole,” the Lagan Valley MP added.

Violent clashes in north Belfast and elsewhere in the last week had demonstrated the need for an “effective mechanism to deal with parades,” Mr Donaldson, a former member of Grand Lodge, said.

Ulster Unionist Grand Lodge member David McNarry, however, said he did not believe it would overturn the 37-32 vote decision against the proposals.

More than 400 responses have been received to the controversial Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests Bill which was the product of the DUP/Sinn Fein working group on parades following the Hillsborough Agreement on policing and justice in January.

It has also come under fire from the SDLP, Alliance, Traditional Unionist Voice, trade unions and community groups.

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