Members of the Orange Order’s East Antrim Combine have met with local political representatives to discuss the “graduated response” to the banning of loyalist band parades.
The meeting at Mossley Orange Hall on Friday, October 3 was attended by around 100 brethren from the nine East Antrim districts, as well as William McCrea MP, Sammy Wilson MP and MLAs Roy Beggs, Paul Girvan and Trevor Clarke.
On the agenda were the issues of parades, policing and justice, housing and education.
During the meeting, Orange Order members quizzed the politicians over the so-called “graduated response” to the banning of the July 12 parade in North Belfast.
Speaking to the Times after the meeting, Carnmoney District Master, Albert Steele said that brethren were annoyed at the lack of action in terms of a combined unionist/loyalist response. But he stressed that there was no suggestion of brethren organising public rallies at this stage.
“We can march all day, but there’s no point in us marching and holding rallies if there’s not pressure being put on by the politicians,” he commented.
“It’s not just about Twaddell Avenue, or Drumcree, Dunloy or other places I could name. We want to change the Parades Commission and get rid of the Parades Commission - that is our ultimate goal. But we need the politicians putting the pressure on in order to achieve that.”
He continued: “It was a very, very robust meeting and it got very hot and heavy at times, but we didn’t get many answers to the questions we were asking. We have asked them (the politicians) to come back and meet with us again in six to eight weeks and hopefully at that stage they will be able to give us answers to the questions we asked.”
DUP MLA Paul Girvan described the meeting as “a very worthwhile exercise” and was supportive of the calls for the Parades Commission - a body he describes as “an unelected quango” - to be scrapped. He also said that “inconsistency” regarding the policing of loyalist and republican parades was a major point of discussion at the meeting.
“It was a good opportunity for people to engage with us and raise issues that are important to them. We answered the questions that we could answer, and those we couldn’t answer we will endeavour to get answers to and raise with the relevant agencies,” he commented.
“We will be holding these forums on a more regular basis and we look forward to that.”
Mr Steele said that the Combine’s next meeting with the political representatives is likely to take place in Carrickfergus before Christmas.