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Last-minute compromise could be a future template

How the Crumlin Twelfth peace deal worked

By Gráinne Brinkley

THE largest Twelfth parade to take place in Crumlin village in 14 years passed off peacefully after last-minute talks between the local residents’ association and the Orange Order.

Tensions were running high in the village early last week after the Parades Commission gave permission to the Orange Order to bring 50 bands, 4,000 marchers and thousands of supporters into the mainly nationalist town.  Restrictions had been placed on the return leg of the parade with only the local Glenavy lodges allowed to march through the town.

Speaking to the Andersonstown News last week, the Crumlin Residents’ Association had expressed concerns that the Orange Order had refused to engage with the association in the run-up to the march to help alleviate tensions. However, late on the Eleventh Night a deal was reached between the Residents’ Association and the Orange Order after talks took place between the two sides. The resolution has been praised as a “lesson for other areas” and it is now hoped that dialogue can continue between the two sides on other issues in the future.

A spokesperson for Crumlin Residents’ Association said they were pleased with the outcome of the talks and the fact the march had passed of peacefully.

“The talks did not finish until 9.30pm on the Eleventh night,” said the spokesperson. “At the last minute there was mediation with independent people involved who I cannot mention.  The Orange Order agreed to speak to the mediators and we realised that the concerns we had were very similar to theirs so both sides agreed to have face-to-face meetings.  They told us that they heard rumours that buses of people from nationalist areas were going to be brought in, but we had heard the same rumours, except of buses coming in from unionist parts like Stoneyford and Ballymacash.  So thank God it was all rumours as there was a fear on both sides that it could all turn very, very violent on the Eleventh Night.”

In the discussions it was agreed that the amount of flags put up in the town centre would be restricted.

“Originally they were going to be lined up the full route of Main Street up on to Ballytromery Road and the small side streets off Main Street,” explained the residents’ spokesperson.

“They [the Orange Order]  agreed that they wouldn’t decorate the side streets or the main Ballytromery Road, but that they would decorate the main street at 5.30am that morning and take them down immediately after the parade, which is what happened. We also agreed that we could put up three banners at certain locations – at each end of the village and one right in the middle of the village beside the Credit Union – that would protest at the nature of the parade.  The only issue came the night before when someone had put up four tricolour flags along Main Street. We have no idea who was behind it so they were taken down.”

The Residents’ Association hopes the resolution will be the beginning of a new relationship with the Orange Order in the area.

“Hopefully this will be the start of dialogue not only on parades but on other issues in the area,” said the spokesperson. “We were relieved the dialogue took place. The Crumlin Residents’ Association would like to express sincere thanks to everyone involved in bringing this issue to a resolution.”

James Tinsley of Glenavy District said: “We appreciated that tensions were starting to run high so the talks were arranged at the last minute. Efforts were made on both sides to defuse tensions and I think that’s what should be focused on.

“We were able to get in and march without bother and the residents and businesses of Crumlin were not affected and left in peace to get on with their lives. It’s hoped it can be used as a lesson for other areas.”

Sinn Féin MLA for South Antrim, Mitchel McLaughlin, welcomed the dialogue.

“I welcome the outcome of the hard work that has been carried out by all those involved in Crumlin that ensured the Twelfth passed off without incident,” he said.

“To its credit, the local Orange Order eventually accepted an offer to meet with residents and, in direct dialogue, signed up to an agreement to alleviate the fears and anxiety of the residents in Crumlin. The face-to-face talks between the Orange Order and the Crumlin Residents’ Association, facilitated by a third party, were significant and achieved much that can form the basis on which we can build on the excellent community relations that have existed in the village of Crumlin for a very long time. It highlights what could have been achieved had dialogue been instigated earlier. I believe that those districts where distrust and contention still exist should take the approach of the Crumlin residents and the local Orange leadership on board and use it as an example of what can be achieved.”

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