[Sinn Fein]

7 July 1998

Dialogue needed for resolution to contentious parades

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP addressing a press conference in Belfast this afternoon called for ``inclusive and direct dialogue between marchers and residents in order to achieve a voluntary accommodation of all contentious parades.''

Mr. Adams said:

``At this point in the controversy over Orange Parades I want to outline Sinn Fein's point of view of the current crisis. Let me begin by reiterating Sinn Fein's position on the issues underpinning the current difficulties.

  1. Sinn Fein upholds the right of the Loyal Orders to march. There are over three thousand marches by the various loyal orders each year There are only a small number, less than one per cent, which nationalists find intolerable.
  2. In these cases Sinn Fein supports the residents in the host communities. No march should enter any areas where they are not wanted. This is not an issue of conflicting rights. It is an issue of equality - an issue of civil rights.
  3. Sinn Fein believes that all democrats should stand by the residents. We believe that all solidarity protests should be peaceful and disciplined.
  4. Sinn Fein is for a voluntary accommodation of all contentious parades. This can only be achieved by inclusive and direct dialogue.

``The issue of inclusive and direct dialogue, based on equality, is at the crux of this matter. The Orangemen refuse to talk. They refuse to accept the rights of nationalists to be consulted or for them to chose their own representatives.

``In other words they refuse to come to terms with the reality that if there is to be truly a new era then no group has the right to dominate another group. I accept this is a difficult concept for unionism and Orangeism to embrace at this time.

``This statelet was establised as an Orange State and the Orange Order was the cement which held unionism, of all classes and social groupings, together. The Orange Order is a sectarian, anti-catholic organisation which has members well placed in all of the institutions of the state - the various unionist and loyalist parties, the civil service, the judiciary, the RUC, through the Churches and sections of the business community. It has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. It is against change. It has chosen the marches issue as the battlefield on which it intends to rally all those elements who are against equality and change.

``The growing confidence of the nationalist section of our people, efforts to implement an equality agenda, and the need to build a new society on this island is seen by Orangeism as a threat to its position. It is presented by its leaders as a threat to the protestant way of life. It is not. But it is only through dialogue that the two sides, that is those of us who want change and those who feel threatened by change, will get to understand each others positions.

``So, the main objective of all who wish to see these matters resolved must be to bring about dialogue.

``The responsibility upon the British government must be to uphold the rights of all citizens to be free from sectarian harassment. If it genuinely means to do this then the British government risks alienating substantive elements of unionism, if only on a temporary basis. So London, and the establishment on this island, have only come to this proposition reluctantly as an example of other years on Garvaghy Road testify.

``The temptation now is for the pressure to be put on the residents because it will be suggested, as it has been already, that they need to make concessions to Orangeism rather than risk David Trimble's position. This ignores his responsibility as recently elected First Minister designate.

``This type of pressure on the residents also ignores the rights of the host communities to equality, justice and freedom from sectarian harassment as outlined in the Good Friday Agreement. Mr. Trimble's new position, achieved through his support for the Good Friday Agreement, with all of these positions, compels him to take a non-partisan position on these matters and a pro-active role in seeking their resolution.

``He cannot refuse to talk. Only last week the representatives of all of the political parties in this state, including many orange leaders, were present at the inaugural meeting of the shadow Assembly. Unionists, including orange members sit in local government with representatives of all of the other parties, and do business with them. The same thing must happen now if a voluntary accommodation is to be found to the current crisis.

``The Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition have already put forward a five point initiative to resolve the stand-off at Garvaghy Road. Unfortunately this was rejected by the Unionists and the Orange Order. I would appeal to them to reconsider this initiative or to propose an alternative. In any case I would ask them to enter into dialogue because without dialogue an accommodation is impossible. With dialogue a solution is always a possibility.

``In conclusion, I want to reiterate my call for all democrats to support the residents in the beleaguered nationalist areas, particularly on the Garvaghy Road. No community should have to endure the demonisation which the residents of Garvaghy Road or the Lower Ormeau Road are subjected to or the annual siege which these communities have to suffer.

``There can be no backing down now in the face of pressure and threats from the massed ranks of orangeism. The current difficult phase must be managed calmly and with an eye to the future. We must come down on the right side of history. And the right side of history is the side of equality and change. We cannot expect those who fear change to come on board until they know that they cannot stop it. Only when this is clear will they seek to play a role in shaping it. I have always made it clear that the best way to bring about change is by managing it in a shared way. That is the challenge facing us all today.''ENDS

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