Talk to Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams urges loyal orders
The loyal orders must enter talks with Sinn Fein to avert further trouble during the marching season, Gerry Adams has said.
He appealed for the Protestant groups to engage with his party as the organisers of protests at the scene of serious rioting over the Twelfth of July period signalled their intentions to demonstrate again next month.
“I am asking that they (loyal order leaders) set aside past differences, demonstrate real courage and vision, and engage in dialogue with Sinn Fein and local host communities affected by marches,” he said. “It is time that the issue of contentious marches was finally resolved.”
On July 12 a residents' group from the Ardoyne area of Belfast staged a sit down protest on the Crumlin Road in an effort illegally to block Orangemen walking past the notorious flashpoint.
While members of the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) were removed by police and the Orange parade passed as planned, serious rioting broke out in the area afterwards and continued for three nights in a row, injuring scores of police officers.
GARC's plan to hold a similar protest ahead of a march by a different loyal order — the Apprentice Boys — through Ardoyne on August 14 has raised fears of new dissident republican violence.
While Apprentice Boys in north Belfast have held talks with mainstream republicans in past years there is no ongoing dialogue ahead of next month's event.
Senior north Belfast Apprentice Boy Tommy Cheevers described Mr Adams' call as a “joke”.
He said he had made numerous efforts to engage with republicans to resolve the issue in past years but each time they refused to compromise.
Noting the variety of different residents and interest groups in Ardoyne, Mr Cheevers said dialogue would only be possible this year if the Ardoyne community could present an agreed position to the Apprentice Boys.
“At the end of the day there has to be a realisation from republicans that they don't own the road,” he said.
An Orange Order spokesman said the leadership had “absolutely no plans” to meet Mr Adams.
Mr Adams said the time had come for all the loyal order leaders to enter concerted talks with republicans to resolve the issues once and for all.
“I believe that a dialogue between Sinn Fein and the loyal orders can reduce tensions and create a climate in which greater understanding can be encouraged.”