New Orange Order leader will not be meeting with Sinn Fein
Newly-elected grand master of the Orange Order Edward Stevenson has said he has no intentions to meet with either Sinn Fein or any residents’ group, but he sees educating the public about the Orange Order as a key part of his vision for the future.
One hundred and fifty delegates from throughout Ireland were in Ballykelly in Co Londonderry, yesterday where Mr Stevenson was elected unopposed to the role of grand master, making him the first man from Co Tyrone to hold the position.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Stevenson said he would not co-operate with the Parades Commission as it stands.
He explained: “I will not move from our current position of non-co-operation with the Parades Commission, although I accept there must be some kind of arbitrary organisation; the work that was ongoing towards this last year was not right and until it is right we will hold our position.”
While Mr Stevenson said he had some suggestions of his own, he would not be drawn on them until he had sat down with members of the grand lodge and discussed them.
He did, however, confirm that he would meet neither Sinn Fein nor any “Sinn Fein-fronted residents’ group”.
He added: “One in 10 victims of the Troubles were members of the Orange Order but Sinn Fein have never said sorry to them, nor have they shown any remorse, and until that happens I will not engage with them.
“I hold the cause of victims of the Troubles closely and I will champion our members who have suffered dreadful ordeals so that they can get either financial compensation or some closure.
“I will make appeals to Government agencies on their behalf and also work with the committees within the Orange Order to get them the help they deserve.”
Mr Stevenson paid tribute to his predecessor and the work he has done over the past decade in |public education about the Orange Order.
He continued: “We have come a long way over the past 10 years, particularly in the field of educating the wider public about the order as a Christian organisation that does a lot of charity work.
“We have an application for funding for a centre which will help people understand what we are really about. Our education |officers are working in schools and a lot of their work is done in Roman Catholic schools, so people have a better knowledge of what the order stands for.”
In the past Mr Stevenson has called for unionist unity but he said yesterday this did not mean a single unionist party.
He said: “I am not a member of any unionist party and the link that the Orange Order had with the Ulster Unionist Party has ended and I see no reason to forge a link with any other party.
“The order contains members who have links with many different unionist parties from all backgrounds and that is very successful but I would be concerned at the possibility of a Sinn Fein member being First Minister.
“To that end there must be unionist unity.”