Irish Protestant marchers seek talks with Catholics

.- Catholics in Portadown, Northern Ireland, are skeptical about the call for talks, issued by the major Protestant brotherhood, the Orange Order.

The Orange Order called for negotiations with Catholics after police restricted one of the group's major public marches through Portadown for the 10th straight year.

“We are committed to face-to-face talks under an independent chairman, with no preconditions. All options are open,” Portadown Orange leader Darryl Hewitt reportedly told the press.

Since Northern Ireland's foundation as a predominantly Protestant part of the United Kingdom in 1921, the Catholic minority has criticized the summertime tradition of Orange parades designed to intimidate and insult them.

They cite the parades' use of so-called “kick the Pope” bands of fife and drum, as well as songs with overtly anti-Catholic themes. The Catholics say they don't want to enter into any talks that would result in renewed Orange parading through their area, reported The Associated Press.

Since 1998, when three Catholic children died at the hands of a Protestant arsonist in another town, police have prevented Protestants from parading into Portadown through the town's major Catholic district.

On Sunday, as has been the case for the past three years, Orange leaders marched in their traditional conservative suits and orange vestments to the police barricade. However, this time they only handed over a letter of protest and walked back to their cars. In the past, the marchers would stay for days and nights in a stubborn test of wills with the police.


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