Sinn Fein say they have so far drawn a blank in efforts to identify an Orange Order contact for talks about the Twelfth of July in Carnlough.
East Antrim MLA Oliver McMullan claimed it had proved “impossible” to find anyone to speak on behalf of the Braid District LOL, whose demonstration this year is to take place in the village.
Mr McMullan said: “We wrote to the Orange Order headquarters asking for a meeting, and we wrote to the District (at a number of Orange halls), but the strange thing is that they don’t give out the names of contacts.”
He added: “I think it’s very important to point out that Sinn Fein are not against an Orange parade in Carnlough, but we do say that before a major parade like this there should be dialogue with local representatives and community groups out of courtesy,”
The MLA suggested: “It would go a long way towards building up strong communities.”
He added: “Some local unionist councillors have said they don’t know what the problem is and that the parade organisers have spoken to local people, but they haven’t spoken to the groups I have met with in Carnlough; they don’t talk to the Parades Commission; and they don’t talk to Sinn Fein, who topped the poll in this area in the council election. So the question is: who do they talk to?”
Asked if he understood that Sinn Fein’s insistence on talks could be perceived by loyal orders as somehow having to seek permission to parade, Mr McMullan replied: “It’s not about asking for permission, it’s about sitting down to talk about the plans for the day. It’s courtesy and good relations and the way forward to a shared future.”
SF Coast Road councillor James McKeown said: “I think there is a misreading, that people don’t want the parade, but we are saying, ‘Yes, have the parade, but sit down and explain it to the local community and deal with apprehensions and concerns about the possible route, the timing of the parade and anxieties about previous parades.
“That conversation would certainly go a long way to allying those fears.”
Cllr McKeown declined to identify which Carnlough groups were seeking engagement with the loyal order. “Given that we have found it impossible to get any contacts for the Orange Order, it would be grossly unfair to start naming community groups,” he said.