Covenant talks 'a meeting of minds'

Published Thursday, 20 September 2012
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First Minister Peter Robinson has described crunch unionist talks held ahead of the Ulster Covenant centenary parade as a "meeting of minds".

Covenant talks 'a meeting of minds'
A final decision is still to be made on the Ulster Covenant parade. (© Pacemaker)

The talks took place at the Orange Order Headquarters in east Belfast on Thursday evening, amid ongoing efforts to find a resolution to contention in north Belfast.

Tens of thousands of Orangemen and their supporters are expected in the city on Saturday 29 September for a special march to Stormont to mark the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant.

Mr Robinson led a DUP delegation into the discussions, which included North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds.

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt, senior representatives of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, and the North and West Belfast Parades Forum also attended in a show of unionist and loyalist unity.

Speaking exclusively to UTV Live Tonight, Mr Robinson described the talks as "a meeting of minds".

There was full agreement amongst all of the representatives who were there and we are looking forward to a fantastic celebration on the 29th.

Peter Robinson

Mr Robinson continued: "It's an opportunity for people right across Northern Ireland to be part of what was the most important and vital event during the course of the Home Rule crisis - the signing of the Ulster Covenant."

He said he hoped there would be respect right across the community for the event and that people wouldn't attempt to mar it or spoil it in any way.

Concerns remain surrounding the commemorative march after violence erupted following a parade past St Patrick's Church in the Donegall Street area last month.

Loyalist bands defied a ruling by the Parades Commission that only a single drumbeat should be played when passing the church during a Royal Black Institution parade.

It came after loyalist band members were filmed marching in circles outside the church on the Twelfth of July.

They were accused of playing the sectarian Famine Song, but later claimed the tune had been the Beach Boys track Sloop John B.

Earlier this month, the Royal Black Institution issued an apology for any offence the conduct caused to the clergy and parishioners of St Patrick's Church.

On Thursday, Mr Nesbitt said the focus should be on the real issue - the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant.

He described the occasion as "a moment of political and cultural significance for the United Kingdom - not just for Northern Ireland."

The Parades Commission has deferred its determination on the parade until next week.

However, Mr Robinson said they should "stay out of it." He said that he didn't feel the need for any further involvement from the parades watchdog.

"The Orange Order have acted in a way everyone should welcome.

"I think the Parades Commission would do well to stay out of it," he said.

The Orange Order said bands taking part in the event will only play hymns when marching past St Patrick's Church - however Sinn Féin has called for its leaders to hold face-to-face talks with residents.

Local MLA Gerry Kelly said: "The issue here is around the area of Carrickhill."

He said the refusal to talk to residents had offended them.

"It's interesting because the residents are asking for respect as well - and the Unionists are asking for respect.

"They've said on numerous occasions recently, 'Let's have mutual respect.' If they want mutual respect, surely it calls for mutual discussion?"

© UTV News
Comments Comments
maggie in north of ireland wrote (853 days ago):
Einstein. The momorial in Dungfiven is right in front of the Church of Ireland church in Dungiven. Anyone attending services there cannot miss it .
Einstein in Belfast wrote (856 days ago):
Michael H in Belfast wrote (6 days ago): All those who state that the parades cost money. UTV News item 28/9/12 "Retailers have told UTV they feel forced to open on a Saturday, despite their reservations about the number of customers they may have, because they cannot afford to miss a whole day's takings. Martin Quinn, who has been running his Belfast barber shop for 40 years, said, ""I feel business will be bad because a lot of my customers will be nervous coming into the streets, but Saturday is my main day "Already they have been in asking me will you be open on Saturday. I can't afford to lose the work," he added. Hugh Black, centre manager, Victoria Square said: "The Covenant Parade will have an impact on the footfall into the city centre. "The last Saturday of the month is traditionally one of our busiest days and this will undoubtedly have an impact on trade.
Einstein in Belfast wrote (860 days ago):
Michael H in Belfast wrote (2 days ago): Parades have been passing this area through the worst of the troubles without all this sudden attention Before now, this was a "Protestant Parliment for a Protestant people" & northern Catholics & Croppies were expected to lye down. They don't lye down any more.
Michael H in Belfast wrote (862 days ago):
All those who state that the parades cost money. If people didn't travel from all over Northern Ireland and further afield to be offended then the parades would go off without a hitch and for a fraction of the cost. Parades have been passing this area through the worst of the troubles without all this sudden attention. Why is it then that since the ceasefires Republicans have done all they can to find offense. Republicans need to realise that this is onlt the start of a decade of celebrations and what they do now will have consequences for the years to come.
Ryan in Belfast wrote (862 days ago):
@billy in ni. Billy, i take it your no expert in economics. you said "The bands generate millions for the economy"? Billy, dont be silly son. The Bands every year costs the economy millions alone to police. Peter Robinson is asking for all people to "respect" the celebrations? Is that the same respect that was shown to St Patricks Chapel on the 12th July? lol these people really do have some nerve.
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