A FORMER councillor in Ballymoney has re-ignited the controversy surrounding Loyal Order parades by stating that “there will never be another one in Dunloy.”
This is despite moves by the Orange Order to allow its members to engage in talks with Residents groups – something viewed by many as the only way to resolve disputes in mainly nationalist areas.
Charley O’Kane, an SDLP representative when the parades issue was at its most divisive and who says he was the first public representative to formally object to parades in a letter to the local police commander several years ago, has welcomed the move by the Orange Order to soften its approach to engaging with nationalists/republicans but says that given the chemistry in Dunloy, he doubts that talks will ever take place.
“I wouldn’t question the sincerity of the Order but there’s no way the members locally will sit down and talk to the residents in Dunloy. It just won’t happen. The divisions and animosity run too deep because of past disturbances and attitudes mainly by the Orangemen. In any case, the people of this village know that there’s no issue with parading here – it’s been over long ago,” he said.
It’s a view shared by Sinn Fein councillor, Philip McGuigan, who told the Times: “The fact that things have been reasonably quiet around the parading issue for the last few years means that the majority of people here including the Residents Association, are of the opinion that the issue has been resolved.”
Both Mr. O’Kane and Councillor McGuigan stressed there was never any barrier to holding talks with residents about the right to parade and said that all they ever sought was for some respect to be shown towards their position.
Mr. O’Kane added: “These parades always seemed to happen when something big was taking place in Dunloy such as Cemetery Sunday or a hurling final. There was no consideration given to locals and that’s why the majority just didn’t want to see any parades and maybe still don’t.”
In their determination on restricting the annual scheduled parades in the village, the Commission stressed the need for talks before any settlement could be reached.
However, because of the entrenched position by both sides, a positive outcome has never been reached.
In changing the rules on meetings, the Grand Chaplain, Rev. Mervyn Gibson, stressed that it was a “conscience clause” which meant that members were under no pressure to hold meetings.
Councillor John Finlay who is a senior figure in the Order in Dunloy, said the protests against certain parades year after year couldn’t continue.
“We have to get to the stage where people respect each others culture. I would like to see the day when Ballymaconnelly band can parade Rasharkin just as much as the AOH can parade the village without any protests.
“The Loyal Orders should be allowed to parade to the church in Dunloy. After all, we are talking about an accordion band that’s respected across the world. How could they cause offence. I think some people get out of their beds to be offended.”
The DUP representative said they had to deal with the issue sooner rather than later and that it “had to be sorted.”