A LEADING member of the Alliance Party has accused the Orange Order of having “limited credibility” after its refusal to talk to residents groups.
Dr. Philip McGarry – who is the President of the Alliance Party – made the claim after a statement released by the Orange Order confirmed its “unwillingness” to talk to residents groups.
The Alliance man said the Orange Order had “no legitimate reasons” for opposing direct talks with residents groups after its recent meetings with convicted killers during the Drumcree stand-off.
“The Orange Order gives the impression that it refuses to talk to local residents as a matter of fundamental principle,” said Dr. McGarry.
“But this argument has very little credibility as Orange leaders have already met with convicted killer Kenny McClinton and two years ago at Drumcree they were happy to talk with the late Billy Wright of the Loyalist Volunteer Force.
“The Orange Order’s position is further weakened by its persistent breach of law over the last few weeks in refusing to call upon its members to go home and accept the lawful decision of the Parades Commission.
“The fact that the protest at Drumcree was used a base for a gunman to shoot at the security forces, for a nail-bomber to cause injuries (to the great satisfaction of the crowd), and for other violent acts prevents any reasonable person from understanding the Order’s self proclaimed opposition to people because of alleged involvement in violence.
“Given recent events, there is no alternative and no reasons why the Orange Order cannot enter into direct contact with local residents groups who live along contentious parade routes,” added the former Belfast City councillor.
A LOCAL Councillor has called on the people of East Belfast to end their protests in support of the Orangemen at Drumcree.
Alliance Councillor Patrick Mitchell – who is a member of Castlereagh Borough Council – issued the plea after expressing concern at the “terrible” July holidays.
The Castlereagh Councillor said:
“The recent July holidays must never again turn out like this. We have had roads blocked, flaming barricades, buses stolen and people driven from their homes.
“The people of East Belfast have a right to protest but many people in this area have been intimidated.
“I think it is time for us to end the senseless damage we have inflicted upon ourselves and the people of this area must also express their outrage at last weekend’s horrific murders in Ballymoney.”
The Castlereagh Councillor, speaking as the Drumcree stand-off entered its tenth day, also said that thousands of pounds worth of damage had been caused to premises in East Belfast.
“We had the burning of the car showroom at the Beersbridge Road and homeless people evicted from the hostel in the Newtownards Road last week.
“Many livelihoods have been destroyed but I would like to thank the police who have thwarted the efforts of organised terrorists on different occasions. It is clear that we owe them a great deal.
“After the triple murder last weekend, it is now time for the rule of law to prevail. We must give deep thought to how we can drive out hatred, bigotry and savagery from our society. It is clear that only way forward is through dialogue,” he said.
WITH tension mounting across Northern Ireland, a leading member of the Alliance Party has called on for an end to all illegal protests and road blockades.
And Dr. Philip McGarry, who is the President of the Alliance Party, has also called on community do “what they can” to prevent further street disturbances and illegal protests.
The former Belfast City Councillor further called for an end to what, he says is, the “blatant intimidation” of families across Northern Ireland.
“Events on the streets and around Drumcree have been gradually spiralling out of control over the last few days,” explained Dr. McGarry.
“Those who have called for people to come out in support of the Orangemen bear a major responsibility for the widespread violence and intimidation which has taken place.
“I would wish to strongly echo the sentiments of the Presbyterian moderator who has urged people to accept decision of Parades Commission and obey the rule of law.
“At this time of great tension and fear throughout the whole community, I would urge all responsible leaders to call upon all public protests and demonstrations to end. I would also urge the people who have been involved in the protests to return to their homes,” he said.
With the failure to reach any agreement over the Drumcree Orange Order march, Alliance Assembly Member David Ford has stressed the need for the Rule of law to be observed and upheld.
David Ford said:
“Yet gain, a refusal to accept a realistic and honourable compromise on either side has led to a stand-off at Drumcree. Both sides must accept responsibility for this, and both sides must now do all in their power to discourage any lawlessness, in Portadown or elsewhere in Northern Ireland.
“It has been said that this march is an acid test for nationalists. I believe it is an acid test for the fair and impartial maintenance of law and order in Northern Ireland. For too long the issue of Drumcree has been decided on the basis of which side can threaten the greater violence. This year the decision has been taken, under the law, to block the march from the Garvaghy Road. That decision must now be upheld. Government must ensure that the police are given all the support they need to prove that no section of the Northern Ireland community is above or beyond the law.”
North Belfast Alliance Constituency Representative Glyn Roberts has hit out at the Orange Order after it placed ‘petty’ preconditions on a meeting with North Belfast members to discuss the controversial ‘Tour Of the North’ parade next month.
Glyn Roberts said:
“The Alliance Party had requested a meeting tomorrow with Orange Order to put forward proposals to them which may prevent violent confrontation with the ‘Tour of the North’ parade.
“Today we were amazed to find that they have now refused to meet with us because one of our delegation is not an elected representative of Belfast City Council. Who on earth do they think are to make such an outrageous and rather stupid precondition as to who we have on our delegation.
“After all who has ever elected the Orange Order?
“We had serious proposals to put to them for a possible compromise and I can only conclude with this silly precondition that they simply are not interested in any form of accommodation over this parade.
Cllr Steve McBride, Alliance Party spokesman on Justice and Human Rights has criticised government proposals to amend the forthcoming Parades legislation to require objectors to give two weeks notice of protests against marches.
Cllr McBride said:
“The Parades legislation now before Parliament is extremely important, but the latest proposed government amendment is unwise, unworkable, and unhelpful. It seeks to throw a sop to Unionists by drawing a false comparison between marchers and protesters which will not be in any way helpful in resolving these difficult situations. Those who organise marches are part of organisations and obviously make their plans in advance – they can reasonable be expected to give notice in good time. Protests on the other hand can emerge at short notice and are not normally organised by formal organisations, and of course protesters are in any event covered by general public order legislation. To effectively make illegal a protest for which two weeks notice has not been given is an infringement of civil liberties and one which will simply lead to increased tension and argument. This vital legislation on a crucial issue should not be endangered by this spurious and misguided political juggling act.”