PROMINENT Londonderry Orangeman Victor Wray says the City Grand Lodge looks forward to enlightening US diplomat Richard Haass on the unique third way for parading, that has proven such a success for all parties in the city over the past number of years.
The former City Grandmaster acknowledged Dr Haass’ uphill task of trying to solve Northern Ireland’s parading, flags and legacy problems between now and Christmas but said the city’s Orangemen were willing to advise and listen.
“We as a City Grand Lodge would welcome Mr Haass coming to Londonderry. Hopefully, we can discuss and share ideas on parading within the city,” he told the Sentinel.
“We are maybe a few years ahead of the rest as we’ve been doing this for about ten years and it’s an ongoing process.
“We can share ideas with Mr Haass or if he has any ideas he can share with us to make our parades better we will be there for listening. This invitation has been given from the Grand Master of Ireland, the Right Worshipful Brother Edwin Stevenson, to come to Londonderry, the Ardoyne and the Garvaghy Road, so we will have no problems welcoming Mr Haass to Londonderry,” he added.
The Sentinel asked if he could pinpoint the special ingredients that have led to greater concord in Londonderry - once often as contentious as other parts - than has been achieved elsewhere about the province.
“I think you have to take it in context. The issues we have in Derry may be different to the ones we have in Belfast and also on the Garvaghy Road and the other contentious areas.
“We’ve been working at this for a long time and what we went for was trust and respect and that everybody’s culture is respected and that has been one of the big things,” he explained.
He also pointed to the hard work that continues unseen at interfaces between nationalist and unionist areas in Londonderry and also at youth group and community level.
“It’s a whole community thing, not just the city centre traders and the city centre management. It goes wider than that right down to youth clubs and everything else,” he said.
He spoke to the Sentinel after the Grand Orange Lodge on Thursday (October 17) encouraged Mr Haass, and his vice-chair Meghan O’Sullivan, to engage with members of the Institution on the ground at both Twaddell Avenue in north Belfast and Drumcree, Portadown. He was also invited to Londonderry.
Explaining the Londonderry invitation, the Grand Master insisted this year’s flagship Twelfth and associated Loyal Order events in the city bore testimony to Orange parades resuming in a mainly nationalist area after previously being stopped for a number of years.
He said: “It is extremely regrettable the same level of toleration and mutual respect cannot be replicated in Portadown and north Belfast.”
Last month, Mr Stevenson led a senior Orange delegation to meet with Dr Haass and Ms O’Sullivan in Belfast when they presented a preliminary submission on parading.
The Institution will also make separate submissions regarding flags and the past.
Last month another prominent Orangeman from the west, Tom Elliott, who is also a high profile unionist politician, said Dr Haass - when dealing with the past - should treat Irish bombers the same way as he would treat those behind the New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania attacks of 2001.