THE Orange Order may take legal action against Martin McGuinness over his claims the organisation is strongly linked to the UVF.
The deputy first minister made the comments during an interview on the BBC’s political show ‘The View’ on Thursday night.
The Sinn Fein MLA told the programme that unionist leaders told him during the Haass talks that the Orange Order, the UVF and PUP in Belfast were acting as “one and the same thing”.
Now a senior Orange Order source has told Belfast Daily that it may go to the High Court to challenge him over the statement.
“There is now a strong view that we should seek a judicial review of what he said on the BBC and try and force him to substantiate his comment,” said the source.
“A lot of people are very angry at his comments which are without foundation.”
On Friday morning, First Minister Peter Robinson launched a scathing attack on Mr McGuinness saying he had “an exaggerated view” of his role in the Haass talks process.
Mr McGuinness talked as if he was “a controller and dictator” and showed a “visceral hatred” of the Orange Order.
The Orange Order said his remarks were “entirely without substance” and that it takes and stands by its own decisions.
“The Orange Institution takes its own decisions, applies its own decisions and stands by its own decisions,” a spokesman for the order said.
In a statement, Mr Robinson said that Deputy First Minister Mr McGuinness’ comments were “unhelpful and irrational” and that he was “in political denial”.
He said they would not move forward current negotiations over flags, parades and the past.
“He speaks as if he is not one of the parties but rather the controller and dictator of how the process will operate. He appears to believe it is everyone else’s duty to reach an agreement on his terms,” he said.
“The deputy first minister shows a visceral hatred of the Orange Institution in his interview. While the DUP will always take its own decisions on political matters, it deliberately invited a representative of the Orange Order to be part of the Haass talks.
“I defy Martin McGuinness to deny that Mervyn Gibson’s contribution was anything other than instructive and positive.”
Mr Robinson said every party in the talks process had to move in order to narrow the differences.
“Sinn Féin will not dictate the rules of engagement. They do not own the process. They do not control how it will function or what it will (or will not) consider, nor will they prescribe the timing,” he said.
“The five parties will, by consensus, agree all of those matters and if they fail to agree then it will be as much his fault that he could not reach agreement with the majority unionist community as it would be the fault of unionists that they could not reach agreement with nationalists. Sinn Féin will not regulate this exercise.
“As the largest party in Northern Ireland we will not be shepherded into any structure that restricts our ability to conclude agreement on deal imperatives.
“If Sinn Féin or any other party does not want to be part of a process that seeks to resolve outstanding issues they can walk away, but that will display a lack of leadership on their part.”
The Haass talks broke up without a deal on New Year’s Eve, and Tuesday saw the first meeting of Northern Ireland’s five main parties since the end of the negotiations.
After the meeting Mr McGuinness said: “I have watched over the course of the last 18 months unionist parties dancing to the tune of extremists within their own community and that has to end.
“I say that because I believe the influence of these people has impacted on the Haass negotiations and the Haass outcome.
“This is a time for leadership, this is a time for standing up to extremists who are trying to bring this process down.”