Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Dialogue with residents essential for Orange Order

The Orange Order shouldn't get carried away with the defeat of an Assembly motion calling for them to meet Carrick Hill residents.

It may give them a nice, warm feeling to see unionists rallying round to defeat a Sinn Fein-inspired motion on parades, but such victories are Pyrrhic if they aren't used creatively.

Any temptation to dig their heels in should be avoided, because only nationalist agreement can provide the soft landing we all need on the parading issue.

The route to a peaceful outcome - and to the high moral ground for the Orange Order - lies through meetings with whomever the Order needs to meet without splitting hairs about whom they meet.

The Carrick Hill residents have said that they don't want to stop the parade, they just want respectful consultation on how it is conducted.

That is a good starting point for discussions and the Order would do well to make the best use of it.

The example of Drumcree shows that, when the Order stands its ground and refuses dialogue, it loses.

Now Portadown District is prepared to talk to almost anyone, but it is too late; the argument is effectively over and the parade is banned.

The experience of the Apprentice Boys of Derry shows that discussions can bring results. The alternative is a Parades Commission determination, which will set a precedent for the future.

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