Top Orangeman ready for residents' talks

Published Friday, 07 September 2012
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A leading Orangeman, the Reverend Mervyn Gibson, has told UTV he's prepared to speak to residents' groups on the issue of contentious parades.

Top Orangeman ready for residents' talks
Reverend Mervyn Gibson speaks exclusively to UTV's Ken Reid. (© UTV)

It comes after raised tensions surrounding a number of recent events and a subsequent apology from the Royal Black Institution to clergy and parishioners of a Catholic church in north Belfast.

According to Rev Gibson, the Orange Order "fully supports" the Royal Black.

"We agree with all the sentiments expressed in their statement," he told UTV Political Editor Ken Reid on Friday.

The Loyal Orders have also withdrawn an application to parade past the Ardoyne shops on the morning of their Ulster Covenant demonstration.

In a statement, also issued on Friday, the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland said: "We are genuinely committed in finding a just and equitable resolution to these matters."

Rev Gibson added: "I think people realise that there are quiet talks going on behind the scenes, trying to resolve issues.

"We want to take any tension out of the situation."

Dialogue is the way forward - at this moment in time, we are having quiet conversations.

Rev Mervyn Gibson

While Rev Gibson said he saw "no difficulty" in meeting residents' groups to discuss any problems, he added that he understood why some Orangemen weren't ready to talk directly to Sinn Féin.

"We, the Orange Institution, are a broad institution," he said.

"There are some people who are prepared to talk to Sinn Féin - it's well-known I've talked to Sinn Féin in the past.

"But equally, I understand there are many of our members who are still suffering hurt because of Sinn Féin/IRA's actions over the years and they'd find it difficult to talk to them."

He added: "I don't believe as an institution we're at that stage to talk directly to Sinn Féin."

Asked about the claims that loyalist paramilitaries - namely the UVF - had orchestrated recent protests over parades, Rev Gibson told UTV that people with such a background may have been involved in talks.

"[Loyal Orders] will talk to local community groups, they'll talk to bands, they'll talk to the Parades Forum - because they're all part of the community," he said.

"In some of those forums, there may be people of a paramilitary past.

"That doesn't prevent us from talking to them."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
Cynical in Belfast wrote (873 days ago):
About time too! I think maybe they are beginning to realise how fed up the general public are getting with this whole parade issue and what that could lead to!
Ryan in Belfast wrote (873 days ago):
I support and welcome Reverend Mervyn Gibson's choice to talk to residents about contentious parades but one thing about this article struck me. Reverend Gibson says that many in the Orders are still not willing to speak to Sinn fein due to the past but yet their willing to talk to Loyalist Paramilitaries? We all know Loyalist paramiliaries, not only during the troubles but going back decades to well over a century in their many forms have murdered and terrorized the nationalist community. Im not surprised at all by the Orders saying this because its been clear for a very long time that they see Catholic blood as being of far less value than Protestant.
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