Page last updated at 15:02 GMT, Saturday, 6 March 2010

Orange Order welcomes N Ireland parades progress

Grand Master Robert Saulters
Robert Saulters said that the welcomed the progress

The Orange Order gives work being done on parading by a DUP and Sinn Fein working group a qualified welcome.

A Grand Lodge meeting voted in favour of a resolution welcoming "the progress being made" on the new bill.

Grand Master Robert Saulters said they still had concerns about a campaign "restricting freedom of assembly".

He said the Order still wanted the Parades Commission abolished but would hold back on making a final comment until the draft bill is published.

"From here we will wait for the actual bill to be printed, and then we will be part of the team that will be concerned about questions on that," he said.

He said that 95% of the 120 members at the policy meeting at the meeting on the issue in County Tyrone voted to give the working group the space to continue working on the legislation. However, it will not be in place for this year's marching season.

TUV leader Jim Allister said he believed the Order was "was right not to give the DUP a blank cheque" and added that he hoped "it does not have occasion to regret its down payment of trust in the DUP/Sinn Fein deal".

It is understood the Order met with senior DUP figures on Thursday.

Jeffrey Donaldson, Stephen Moutray and Nelson McCausland and Reverend Mervyn Gibson are believed to have attended.

Mr Gibson has been advising the new joint working group on parades set up following the Hillsborough Agreement.

Last month, the Orange Order said it had several areas of concern about the working group's proposals.

The DUP and Sinn Fein set up a six-strong group to review parading following the Hillsborough Agreement.

That working group delivered its report to the office of the first and deputy first minister on 24 February.

The document is not due to be made public, which has concerned the loyal orders and residents' groups who oppose certain marches.

The remit of the DUP/Sinn Fein parades working group was to agree a framework for dealing with what is a particularly controversial issue in Northern Ireland.

Three DUP members and three Sinn Fein members were tasked with designing a new and improved framework to rule on controversial marches, including a focus on local solutions, mediation and adjudication.

Nationalist residents in mainly working-class areas such as north Belfast and Portadown in County Armagh oppose Orange Order processions in their areas because they view them as triumphalist.

Members of the loyal orders accuse residents of going out of their way to be offended and maintain it is their traditional right to demonstrate on the streets.

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