Orange Order leaders meet Catholic clergy

Nationalist Protesters outside St Patrick's Church in Belfast as an Orange Parade passes. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Nationalist Protesters outside St Patrick's Church in Belfast as an Orange Parade passes. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

A delegation of senior Orange Order officials has met with Roman Catholic church leaders in Belfast.

The meeting held on Tuesday follows preliminary talks between the churchmen and both the Order and the Royal Black Institution in February this year.

Among the issues being discussed were the Haass proposals, parading, and shared concerns over child poverty and educational underachievement in Northern Ireland.

Afterwards, both delegations agreed the two-hour meeting had proved beneficial in developing “mutual respect and understanding” for both traditions - with further engagements expected to take place.

The Orange Order was represented by Grand Master Edward Stevenson, along with his deputy Rev Alister Smyth, Grand Secretary Drew Nelson, Belfast County Grand Master George Chittick and Director of Services Dr David Hume.

Bishop of Down and Connor, Most Rev Noel Treanor, was accompanied by Rev Timothy Bartlett, the Secretary to the northern bishops and Rev Michael Sheehan of St Patrick’s in Donegall Street.

Last week the Orange Order expressed “huge disappointment” that the Parades Commission had placed a number of restrictions on the annual Tour of the North parade taking place in Belfast this Friday.

The Order’s leadership had hoped that a gesture to play only hymns as the bands passed St Patrick’s chapel would have been deemed acceptable.

However, the commission ruled that only a single drumbeat can be played between Carrick Hill and the city centre end of Donegall Street.

Earlier this week an Orange Order spokesman said the determination was “in stark contrast to the positive response to the goodwill gesture regarding the playing of hymns, which was publicly welcomed by St Patrick’s administrator, Fr Michael Sheehan”.

The spokesman said the revamped Parades Commission was “part of the problem” and was “quickly losing its shine and is mimicking its predecessor, rather than bringing a fresh perspective” to the outstanding issues.

Another determination will prevent the Ballysillan Orange Lodge from walking along a stretch of road in north Belfast separating nationalist and loyalist communities.

The ban on using the Woodvale Road and Crumlin Roads between Woodvale Parade and Hesketh Road has also been in force preventing three Ligoniel lodge from completing their unfinished July 12 parade.