DUP and Sinn Fein plans to defuse flashpoint parades have been dealt a body blow after being rejected by the Orange Order.
A special meeting of the Grand Orange Lodge voted against the current draft parades legislation — which would lead to the present Parades Commission being scrapped — as the way forward.
A statement yesterday said the new blueprint, which the DUP and Sinn Fein could still vote through the Assembly, could not be accepted “in its present form”.
But the Grand Lodge vote was close — 37 votes to 32, with some abstentions — and there were suggestions their meeting at Tamnamore Orange Hall in Co Tyrone was not representative.
A senior source said most Grand Lodge meetings are attended by more than 100 delegates and upwards of 180 are entitled to turn up, but only 80 were there on Tuesday night.
A number of senior figures, including Grand Lodge secretary Drew Nelson, were not present.
Assistant Grand Master David McNarry described the outcome of the vote as a “welcome decision”.
The Ulster Unionist MLA added: “I hope that those for whom this is a rebuff will not now attempt to play politics. The Grand Lodge has given its verdict and what happens to this legislation now is a matter for the Assembly.”
The main points of the draft parades legislation include:
New body to replace the Parades Commission made up of 11 members split into two teams of five.
Code of conduct with residents having the right “to live free from sectarian harassment” while it will be illegal to block a lawful parade.
Marchers and protesters expected to partake in dialogue.
Those applying for a parade or protest will have to show justifiable reason for their course of action.