Belfast Telegraph

MP says dissidents, Orange Order and Apprentice Boys are 'barriers to peace'

Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

An MP has said it was not his intention to conflate the violent activities of dissident republicans with the Orange Order or the Apprentice Boys of Derry while making a statement in the Commons.

It comes after concerns were raised about the MP's comments by DUP MP Gregory Campbell.

Glasgow North East MP Paul Sweeney said organisations such as Saoradh — the political wing of the so-called 'new IRA' which claimed responsibility for the murder of journalist Lyra McKee — the Apprentice Boys and the Orange Order were "the only barriers to peace".

He made the comments as Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley updated the Commons on the latest talks aimed at breaking the political impasse and restore the devolved institutions.

He said as part of the post Good Friday Agreement generation, he found many were "bemused and offended" by the intransigence of the Northern Ireland political impasse.

He told MPs there needed to be more "temperate language" from both sides as they tried to find compromise in order to reach an agreement.

He said: "In raising my concerns about Saoradh taking part in a parade in Glasgow this weekend — which did take place in the end — I was confronted by people who questioned all sorts of motives. The lack of faith, the lack of trust on either side.

"Whether I call out the Orange Order and the Apprentice Boys of Derry intimidating Catholics at prayer in Glasgow, whether it's organisations like Saoradh bringing their toxic politics and violence to the city of Glasgow. I call out both sides, because they are the only barriers to peace.

"We a bit need more temperate language from both sides and an understanding that, to paraphrase Mo Mowlam, if both sides are willing to compromise, we will get a good outcome.

"That is the way ahead. We need to understand that no one will get everything they want out of these negotiations."

Paul Sweeney MP
Paul Sweeney MP
Gregory Campbell

Saoradh are a different order of violence from anything that has taken place.

The comments caused DUP MP Gregory Campbell to raise his concerns.

"When criticising — quite rightly, in the view of many, many people — the actions of Saoradh, the political wing of murdering terrorists, but he made an oblique comparison with that group of, as I say, murdering terrorists with others who walk on the streets such as the Orange Order and the Apprentice Boys.

"That should not go unanswered, and it should be totally and utterly condemned by all right-thinking people."

Mr Sweeney again took to his feet in the chamber to address Mr Campbell's comments.

"It was not my intention in making that statement to conflate the motives of those organisations," he added.

"I was merely reflecting my constituents' concerns, as brought to me, about the intimidation that has taken place in the city of Glasgow, as they see it. I was merely reflecting that. I was not conflating violent acts with anything else.

"I abhor the actions of Saoradh, they are a different order of violence from anything that has taken place involving any other organisation in recent times. It was not my intention to cause that degree of offence.

"If it has been received in that way, I beg your forbearance for that it was not my intention.

"It is important that both sides understand each other if we want to reach a compromise — that was merely my intention in raising those concerns. I have had dialogue with both sides on that issue."

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