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Claims bishop rebuffed invitation from Orange Order denied

By Sarah Mac Donald - 01 August, 2013


A spokesman for the Diocese of Down and Connor has rejected claims that Bishop Noel Treanor rebuffed an invitation to face to face talks from the Orange Order.

In an interview with BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence programme, Fr Eddie Magee was adamant that no “private invitation” from the Orange Order had been received by the Bishop and so there was “no invitation to defer, refuse or rebuff.”

However, the Orange Order has insisted that a letter sent to Fr Michael Sheehan, who was designated by Bishop Treanor to enter into discussions with the loyalist group over a contentious parade past St Patrick’s parish on Donegall Street contained an invitation to Bishop Treanor. 

Violence erupted following the parade by the loyalist Royal Black Preceptory last August.

In an open, unsigned letter, the Orange Order wrote to Fr Sheehan that in the furtherance of its outreach to the Catholic community, it wished to invite Bishop Treanor as well as the clergy and parishioners of St Patrick’s to visit the Covenant exhibition as their guests.

The letter added, “It is hoped that the lines of communication opened by this opportunity will be maintained in the months ahead.”

Fr Sheehan replied to the letter deferring a public visit to the exhibition until a later stage, but he welcomed the opportunity to discuss some of the issues around parading.

“The deferral of the public visit to the Convenant exhibition was in no way to indicate closure to ongoing dialogue on parading,” Fr Magee said.

The Orange Order’s chaplain, Rev Mervyn Gibson, has said the offer to Bishop Treanor still stands and that said if it required a personal invitation that would be followed up on.

He was speaking ahead of a visit by the former US envoy to Northern Ireland, Richard Haass, to chair all-party talks on flags and parades.

In the interview, Fr Magee said the focus now needed to be ongoing engagement and dialogue by all.

It is hoped that the all-party talks which Mr Haass will oversee will produce recommendations on these issues.

By Sarah Mac Donald

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