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Adams talks with Orange Order

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has met with Orange Order representatives in an attempt to resolve the long running Drumcree dispute, it emerged today.

The historic meeting took place last week and it is understood that discussions lasted around two hours, but ended without a resolution.

Mr Adams said: "It is and always has been the Sinn Fein position that the issue of parading can only be resolved through dialogue between the Loyal Orders and local communities.

"For a number of years I have written to the Orange Order offering dialogue around the issues of contentious parades.

"Recently, representatives of the Portadown Orange sought to meet with me. I met with the delegation last week. We had an informative and useful discussion about Orangeism and its place in modern Ireland.

"I also made it clear to them that it was our firm view that there is no rationale for an Orange parade along the Garvaghy Road community," he told the News Letter.

John O'Dowd, a local Sinn Fein MLA , gave a cautious welcome to the meeting but the Grand Orange Lodge said it does not believe it was in the best interests of the organisation.

A Grand Lodge spokesman said: "We have just become aware through the media that a meeting has taken place between some of Portadown District officers and Gerry Adams.

"While we understand the frustration that has built up among the officers and members of Portadown District over the continued refusal of their Drumcree parade, we do not believe that clandestine meetings are in the best interests of the institution."

The Garvaghy Road dispute has been the site of some of the most violent scenes in Northern Ireland as both sides clash over the contentious march.

In recent years, the event has passed off without the violence which dominated the headlines previously — but the matter still remains unresolved.

DUP leader Peter Robinson, who met Portadown District at Stormont on Monday along with Nigel Dodds and David Simpson, has been informed of the talks.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr O'Dowd reiterated Sinn Fein's view that there is no need for an Orange Order parade down the Garvaghey Road.

"We have met with the Parades Commission and outlined our view of the situation in Portadown and the Garvaghey Road," he said.

"We reiterated our position that there is no need for a parade down the Garvaghey Road. There is no need to put the local community through the trauma of having an Orange Order parade through the area.

"The only long-term solution is through agreed dialogue."

The historic meeting happened less than two weeks after a compromise over the contentious Tour of the North parades in north Belfast.

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