Belfast Telegraph

Martin McGuinness would consider going to the Twelfth... but Orange Order says he's not invited

By Claire Williamson

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said he would consider attending the Twelfth of July celebrations - if an invite was given by the Orange Order.

The Sinn Fein MLA said if he was invited he would give "serious consideration" to it.

He said: "It's important not to impose yourself, but I do think it's important that people are big enough to invite you."

However the Orange Order says it will not be extending an invite to Mr McGuinness.

Speaking to the Impartial Reporter newspaper, Mr McGuinness said: "I appreciate what the Twelfth of July means to the Unionist comunnity. I take great pride in what happened in my own city. Particular the tremendous work the Apprentice Boys have been involved in.

"Derry is peaceful. We never have any concerns of parades of any description degenerating into violence or ignorance. People conduct themselves very, very well indeed and I take great pride in that.

"I have consistently paid tribute to the work of, not just local residents, but the Apprentice Boys, who I do think by their presence in the city, enrich our lives."

In a statement the Orange Order said it has "over 300 reasons" why it would not invite him. It claims Mr McGuinness' comments are "gesture politics rather than constructive peace building".

It said: "All our demonstrations are public and anyone is free to attend them.

"However, the Orange Institution will not be issuing an invitation to Mr McGuinness to attend any of our Twelfth celebrations, and we have over 300 reasons why we would not do so.

To clarify,Iwas asked by a journalist if I would attend an Orange Parade.Isaid if an invite came I would consider it. #ReachingOut #Peace

— Martin McGuinness(@M_McGuinness_SF) January 21, 2016

"There were 333 of our Brethren murdered during the Troubles, the overwhelming majority by the Provisional IRA, of which Martin McGuinness was a prominent member and proud to belong. Many of our murdered Brethren were serving or retired members of the Crown Forces.

"Sinn Fein have never apologised, nor shown genuine remorse, for the murder of the Crown forces. To offer an invitation to Martin McGuinness would insult their memory and bring further hurt and distress to many families.

It added: "The Orange Institution is actively involved in bridge building at many levels, but there are some things that as an organisation and as a Unionist community are at present beyond the pale.

"We would encourage Martin McGuinness to continue on the political path on which he is now embarked, sadly his conversion from violence was too late for many, both Protestants and Roman Catholics. We would view his comments as 'gesture politics' rather than constructive peace building.”

On Thursday, Mr McGuinness tweeted: "To clarify, I was asked by a journalist if I would attend an Orange Parade. I said if an invite came I would consider it. #ReachingOut #Peace"

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