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New parades code of conduct would criminalise Orange culture, Order chiefs told DUP


Loyal Order fears that a new parades code of conduct would "criminalise Orange culture" put the DUP under pressure in the Haass talks, it has emerged.

Both the DUP and Ulster Unionists had fundamental objections to the code, which was a key demand from Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance during talks chaired by Dr Richard Haass.

Orange Order chaplain Rev Mervyn Gibson, who was a member of the DUP talks team, said it was a "fair assessment" that the proposals on the table would have "criminalised Orange culture".

A senior Orange source added: "There are some good things and some bad things in the code, but people want to bring in legislation for all parades when we already have sufficient legislation to deal with them in terms of breaches of the peace and hate crime."

The planned code on parades would also not allow references, including music, to proscribed organisations past or present, or "paramilitary-style clothing at all times during an event".

It would also commit all politicians to uphold the determinations of the new parading structures "regardless of whether they reflect our own personal preferences or the wishes of the communities (they) represent".

They would have been required to support police and the criminal justice system in enforcing such determinations – including a responsibility "to call on others to act in the same way".

The point was underpinned yesterday by Secretary of State Theresa Villiers who urged the five Executive parties to get back around a table.

She said: "It is also crucial that the current system on regulating parades is respected and that the determinations of the Parades Commission are obeyed.

"They carry the force of the law and until a new system is agreed and implemented, the Parades Commission will continue to be the lawfully constituted body for adjudicating on parades."

While the Orange Order's concerns shed some light on the pressure unionists were under before turning down a deal, the detail of unionist objections to the deal are largely unknown.

The DUP and Ulster Unionist Party have yet to set out in public exactly which proposals caused them to turn down the deal. Both Tom Elliott and party leader Mike Nesbitt refused to reveal more details ahead of the UUP party executive meeting in Templepatrick on Monday.

The DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson said his party intended to participate in the working group suggested by Dr Haass "to engage in further dialogue to hopefully resolve these issues."

However, SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell, whose party has given the Haass proposals a general endorsement, said: "There can be no ambiguity about how any protester, bandsman or marcher conducts themselves in public.

"That needs a code of practice in law."

Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister, whose party was not involved in negotiations, said the proposals would "encase parading in a straightjacket of oppressive regulation" with the aim of decreasing the level of parades.

Meanwhile, Innocent Victims United, which claims to represent 21 victims' groups, has challenged a section of the Haass document which describes the Troubles as a "conflict" which involved various "actors".

Belfast Telegraph


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