A top Orangeman denied that the Order marches through nationalist neighbourhoods after a poll found over a third of DUP members want to curb its ability to enter such areas.
The Rev Mervyn Gibson was reacting to a new piece of ground-breaking research, which takes an in-depth look at the views and religious make-up of DUP members.
It found that 31.6 per cent believe the Order should get agreement from residents before marching through a nationalist area, and 5.2 per cent said the Order should not be allowed through mainly nationalist areas at all.
The research forms part of an upcoming book called The DUP: From Protest to Power.
The Rev Gibson said: “The question by and large doesn’t arise. We want to march through main arterial routes, through shared space, shared roads.
“That where most of our marches take place ... not through nationalist estates. So the premise of the question implies we want to march through nationalist estates. We don’t want to do that.”
He added: “I can think of no Orange parade that marches through a nationalist area.
“I can think of marching in nationalist towns, et cetera, but it’s not through the estate – it’s through the main village street or High Street or wherever.”
Asked for a party position, a spokesman for the DUP said: “There’s always going to be a regulatory framework in place around parades,” but added that it should be one that does not cave in to violent threats, or operate according to a “strictly anti-parades agenda”.
The survey also found that just over 38 per cent of the DUP are members of the Orange Order, too.
In addition, it found that 30.5 per cent of the members are Free Presbyterians – despite the denomination’s relatively tiny size across the Province – while slightly more than 29.1 per cent are Presbyterian.
Veteran SDLP MLA Alban Maginness said the figures are no surprise to him, and in fact he had thought that the proportion of Orange Order members may have been higher.
The DUP said: “Many unionist elected representatives, across different parties, are members of the loyal orders.
“This probably reflects that those involved in public life are often members of a range of community organisations, and the Orange institution is clearly one of the largest of these from within the unionist community.”
It added that anyone who backs its policies is welcome to consider membership.