Belfast Telegraph

Twelfth invite to Sinn Fein leader leader would insult dead, says Orange Order

By Mark Bain

The Orange Order will not be issuing an invitation to Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald to attend this year's Twelfth demonstrations.

It said to do so would insult the memory of its murdered members and bring further hurt and distress to many families. The statement comes after Ms McDonald said she would go to the July 12 celebrations if she was invited.

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"If I'm invited, yes. But I haven't been invited," she told the News Letter.

Asked if she would specifically say sorry to the Orange Order and admit scores of its members had been murdered by the IRA, Mrs McDonald added: "Of course, I am sorry that members of the Orange Order were hurt... Yes. And I'm sorry that anybody was hurt."

However, an Orange Order statement said an invitation would not be forthcoming.

"All our demonstrations are public and anyone is free to attend them. However, the Orange Institution will not be issuing a specific invitation to the Sinn Fein president to attend any of our Twelfth celebrations," it said.

The Order said that it will take time to judge the merits of an apology.

"Any apology for murder is between those making it and the families of the bereaved," a spokesman added. "The sincerity of the apology will be judged by the actions of those making it."

And there was a reinforcement of its policy not to hold any meetings with Sinn Fein representatives.

It added: "Grand Lodge has a longstanding policy of not meeting with Sinn Fein. The current comments by Mrs McDonald do not alter that position."

Ms McDonald, who also spoke to the BBC's Talkback, said she thinks the current Orange Order policy is "a mistake".

"Sitting down and talking to each other is the first necessary step in appreciating each other's position, in assisting to heal and most importantly carving together a productive, modernising, inclusive society," she said.

"I think it's important that we meet as a society coming out of conflict and as a society facing big, big challenges.

"Organisations, whether political or cultural, sporting or in the arts or in any other facet, need to lead from the front.

"I'm more than happy to meet with the Orange Order and I hope it happens. I think it would be a good and positive thing.

"I know the Orange have refused to meet me in the past. I think that's unfortunate. It's a mistake. The reality is that Sinn Fein people meet and interact with members of the Orange Order very, very regularly and the Orange Order are well aware of that.

"I would see no reason not to attend (a Twelfth). If I'm not prepared to stretch myself I can hardly ask that of other people.

"We need to understand that life moves on."

South Armagh campaigner William Frazer said victims will not be fooled by Ms McDonald's attempt to build bridges with the Orange Order.

He said: "They are masters of deception and manipulation, green white and gold chameleons; I nor the victims' community shall be fooled by their faux offers of reconciliation.

"Republicans have a lot to be sorry for.

"If Mrs McDonald wants to debate the past or the IRA's part in it, I am more than happy to furnish her with the facts of the brutal campaign which her party endorsed."

Two weeks ago Leo Varadkar became the first Taoiseach to visit the Orange Order's Schomberg House headquarters in east Belfast.

And last Sunday DUP leader Arlene Foster was cheered and applauded as she watched her home county Fermanagh take on Donegal in the GAA Ulster Senior final in Clones.

Belfast Telegraph

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