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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 May 2006, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
Orders and SDLP hold first talks
Loyal Orders
Loyal Orders representatives met the SDLP for the first time
Representatives of the loyal orders have met the SDLP for the first time to discuss the Protestant marching season.

The meeting, at Parliament Buildings, was attended by the heads of the Orange Order, the Royal Black Institution and the Independent Orange Order.

The Orange Order's Drew Nelson said: "This preliminary meeting provided for an honest exchange of views and we believe it was constructive."

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said the talks had been "positive and constructive".

Mr Nelson said the SDLP had agreed to meet with the orders again in the near future.

He said the orders had wanted the meeting to "explain to the SDLP our view that the present legislative framework governing parades in Northern Ireland is fundamentally flawed and can be improved upon".

However, Mr Durkan said: "We obviously have a very different view on the Parades Commission than the orders and they are not going to change our view.

"We do not want to give people any misunderstanding as to the nature of our dialogue with the loyal orders.

"We are not proposing to replace the Parades Commission in our contact with the loyal orders nor are we proposing to replace any of the local residents groups or indeed any other party."

Mr Durkan said the orders could not use the dialogue with his party as a way of bypassing bodies like the Parades Commission andother members of the community.

The Protestant marching season is one of the fixed elements of Northern Ireland life, and in recent years some parades have led to disputes and street violence.

The government-appointed Parades Commission was set up in 1997 to make decisions on whether controversial parades should be restricted.

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