The Orange Order has briskly dismissed a suggestion from Martin McGuinness that he could be invited to the Twelfth of July.
Mr McGuinness was quoted as saying that the Order should be “big enough” to invite him to the celebration but said that he did not want to “impose” himself.
However, the institution quickly made clear that the Deputy First Minister will not be getting an invitation, saying that to do so would be an insult to the memory of the security forces murdered by the IRA.
Mr McGuinness told Fermanagh newspaper The Impartial Reporter that he appreciated the importance of the day to the unionist community and took pride in how events had recently passed off peacefully in his native Londonderry.
The former IRA commander said: “It’s important not to impose yourself on for example the Twelfth of July but what I do think is important is that people are big enough to invite you. I’d prefer to go to places where I am invited.”
Asked if he would attend if invited, Mr McGuinness replied: “I would give very serious consideration.”
But the sight of Mr McGuinness at a traditional parade is not likely to materialise in the near future, as the Orange Order has dismissed outright any notion of it extending an invite.
The institution referred to the deaths of more than 300 Orangemen at the hands of republican paramilitaries during the Troubles as one of the main reasons such an invite would be “beyond the pale”.
“Many of our murdered brethren were serving or retired members of the Crown Forces,” a spokesman said.
“Sinn Fein have never apologised, nor shown genuine remorse, for the murder of the Crown forces.
“To offer an invitation to Martin McGuinness would insult their memory and bring further hurt and distress to many families.”
The organisation also cited the “organised and deliberate role taken by the republican movement in their continuing opposition to our parades”.
“This remains very much evident with leading Sinn Fein representatives continuing to actively oppose and protest against our processions,” he added.
“The Orange Institution is actively involved in bridge building at many levels, but there are some things that as an organisation and as a unionist community are at present beyond the pale.”
On Thursday, Mr McGuinness tweeted: “To clarify, I was asked by a journalist if I would attend an Orange Parade. I said if an invite came I would consider it. #ReachingOut #Peace”
The robust Orange Order rejection of Mr McGuinness’s offer was welcomed by the TUV.
The party’s South Antrim Assembly candidate, Richard Cairns, said: “As the Institution rightly points out, they have over 300 reasons not to do so.
“It is the height of arrogance for McGuinness to question if the Orange Order is “big enough” to invite him when just a few months ago he said: ‘I was proud to be a member of the IRA. I am still, 40 years on’.
“That is the same IRA which bust into an Orange Hall in Tullyvallen and murdered five men because they were members of the Orange Order.”
Full Orange Order statement
“The Twelfth of July is enjoyed by tens of thousands of people who participate or spectate in what is now widely regarded as the one of the largest annual festivals in Europe.
All our demonstrations are public and anyone is free to attend them.
However, the Orange Institution will not be issuing an invitation to Mr McGuinness to attend any of our Twelfth celebrations, and we have over 300 reasons why we would not do so.
There were 333 of our Brethren murdered during the Troubles, the overwhelming majority by the Provisional IRA, of which Martin McGuinness was a prominent member and proud to belong. Many of our murdered Brethren were serving or retired members of the Crown Forces. Sinn Fein have never apologised, nor shown genuine remorse, for the murder of the Crown forces. To offer an invitation to Martin McGuinness would insult their memory and bring further hurt and distress to many families.
There is also a certain irony in Mr McGuinness’ remarks given the organised and deliberate role taken by the republican movement in their continuing opposition to our parades. This remains very much evident with leading Sinn Fein representatives continuing to actively oppose and protest against our processions.
The Orange Institution is actively involved in bridge building at many levels, but there are some things that as an organisation and as a Unionist community are at present beyond the pale. We would encourage Martin McGuinness to continue on the political path on which he is now embarked, sadly his conversion from violence was too late for many, both Protestants and Roman Catholics. We would view his comments as ‘gesture politics’ rather than constructive peace building.”