Northern Ireland

Sinn Féin and SDLP dispute Orange Order claims about how it 'reached out' to them prior to controversial parade for UDA member Jim Guiney

Members of the Lisburn LOL 1981 at the Jim Guiney memorial event in January
Members of the Lisburn LOL 1981 at the Jim Guiney memorial event in January

SINN Féin and the SDLP have both disputed Orange Order claims about how it 'reached out' to them prior to the staging of a controversial parade in memory of a murdered UDA member.

The SDLP described as "inaccurate" suggestions from Lisburn LOL 1981 that no concerns were raised prior to the anniversary march in honour of prominent Orangeman Jim Guiney.

Sinn Féin separately disputed that any of its members engaged with the lodge organising the parade on the 25th anniversary of the killing of 38-year-old by republicans on January 19.

It came after the Orange Order issued a statement saying "conversations were sought with all local political representatives and indeed constructive and positive engagement took place with both SDLP councillor Johnny McCarthy and the local Sinn Fein rep."

The statement followed claims this week by Alliance MLA Sorcha Eastwood that she had received threats for voicing concerns in The Irish News about the event in January.

Prominent Orangeman Jim Guiney
Prominent Orangeman Jim Guiney

She told how she feared it could "retraumatise the loved ones of one of their victims close to where he was killed."

However in a statement yesterday the lodge said its members reached out to politicians in the wake of articles in The Irish News which it described as "casting aspersions on the memorial, attempting to brand it as controversial".

It also spoke of its concerns that it was in any way linked to threats and said it would "challenge very forcefully that it has been involved in any intimidation, harassment or defamation of Ms. Eastwood".

It also said members consulted with the Guiney family, the community association and the PSNI, with "no concerns being raised".

Sinn Féin last night however said it met with "community representatives and the PSNI to raise concerns about a section of the parade route. There was no meeting with the Orange Order."

The SDLP also said the suggestion its representatives did not flag up concerns prior to the march is "inaccurate".

“SDLP representatives engaged with the organisers ahead of the parade and stressed the importance of engaging with the community, addressing any concerns that may arise and being aware of the potential for the event to heighten tensions," a party spokesman said.

Lodge leader Sam Johnston said: "The lodge as a whole are very saddened to hear of the pressure Ms Eastwood feels under, and of course abhor any criminality irrespective of the source."

He added: "Whilst several claims have been made about Jim, it should be noted and acknowledged that he had never been convicted or even questioned about any criminal activity.

"Our parade was a memorial to Jim’s contribution to both our lodge and the local community, had no links to any proscribed organisation, and was open only to the members of the Orange Institution."