Order backs DUP election plan for new parades law

Parades
Parades

The Orange Order has backed plans by the DUP to press for new parading legislation should it become the kingmaker in a hung parliament.

It has been widely predicted that the party could have enough seats to push the Conservatives or Labour across the line and into government in the general election.

The fact that one of the 100 points on its wish list calls for new parading legislation caused a heated debate on BBC Talkback.

The demand comes against the backdrop of yet another pending parading season with no sign in sight for a resolution of the tense standoff at Ardoyne in north Belfast.

A DUP spokesman confirmed that its post-election wish list calls for “a new way forward on parading which respects the fundamental right to assembly”.

But he said it was only one out of 100 points - and that the ‘Northern Ireland Plan’ has been on the party web site for a month.

“Our number one priority is clearly the economy,” he said. In the event of a hung parliament the DUP’s plan will then come into play.

“We will go to the largest party and the second largest party and we will see who is going to give the best deal for Northern Ireland.”

An Orange Order spokesman said the current Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 has created “a disastrous system” of regulating parades.

“We understand the logic of the Government introducing this legislation as a political concession to republicanism in the context of the ceasefire negotiations of the late 1990s,” he said.

“However, this flawed regulatory system, which was rushed in at that time - and enacted contrary to unionist advice and without unionist consent -is now contributing to instability in the Province.”

The order has engaged in four formal attempts to find a better system of regulation but has been unable to agree a replacement with the broader nationalist community, he added.

“We feel that the system put in place by the 1998 legislation is so weighted in favour of those who oppose parades that there is no incentive for the broader nationalist community to negotiate a fairer replacement system.”

Sinn Fein MLA John O’Dowd said: “The DUP is clearly shaping up to accept Tory cuts in return for a deal to force Orange Order marches through nationalist communities. The DUP are obviously more concerned about appeasing the Orange Order than protecting communities from cuts.”