Belfast Telegraph

Orange Order's Mervyn Gibson defends attending Michael Stone art exhibition

Orange Order grand secretary Mervyn Gibson has defended his decision to attend an art exhibition featuring and attended by the loyalist killer Michael Stone.

Stone, who was convicted of killing six people, displayed his art work at an exhibition in east Belfast while on day release from prison last month. The Milestones exhibition was held in the community centre run by Reach UK.

Details emerged in a BBC report on Thursday.

Orange Order Grand Secretary Mervyn Gibson defended his decision to attend the event. He said he was there in a personal capacity, as a local minister and a community activist.

"There was an exhibition in my parish, because I am involved in the Reach organisation, because I am of the belief it was certainly nothing to do with glorifying terrorism," he told the BBC.

"In fact it was the opposite. I had conversations with Michael and he said he didn't want to see people going to jail for what he did. He didn't want to see that repeated."

Rev. Gibson said he was happy to pose for pictures alongside Stone at the event.

When asked how meeting with Stone would look given the Orange Order's stance of refusing to meet with Sinn Fein, he said the Orange Order was a member organisation that had voted unanimously on that matter.

"And the reason for that was because of the hurt to their members. So there is no inconsistency in me as individual going to such an exhibition," he added.

"Indeed in my capacity over the years I have met many senior Sinn Fein officials who were terrorists, who caused immense hurt and I do so in the interests of progress and building peace.

"But as an institution we are entitled to make a decision and I stand by that.

"However, as an individual I will continue to go to events that I believe are moving people forward in the interests of moving away from conflict."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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