EDWARD Stevenson, the Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland has called on his members to hold peaceful and legal protests across Northern Ireland.
He said they should be “at times and locations of their choosing, over the coming weeks”.
Mr Stevenson was speaking at a rally in Twaddell Avenue in Belfast which is now into its 600th day after the Parades Commission banned a returned feeder parade by Orangemen in July 2013 past the flashpoint Ardoyne shop fronts.
Around 200 supporters attended the rally on Saturday.
Mr Stevenson said he would “encourage Orange brethren and our supporters to demonstrate their displeasure at the current situation by holding peaceful and legal protests across Northern Ireland, at times and locations of their choosing, over the coming weeks”.
“Such rallies, which will be entirely lawful, will be held in solidarity with our Orange brethren here at Ligoniel, and Drumcree, and will be a public show of our dissatisfaction at the ongoing and persistent demonization of our loyal institution,” he said.
“Further to this, the institution will soon be beginning a series of meetings with our elected representatives across the province, at all levels, to maximise political support for our long held campaign to replace the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 with a fairer and more balanced regulatory system.”
In his speech, Mr Stevenson again criticised Secretary of State Theresa Villiers for not proceeding with a parades panel to examine the north Belfast dispute.
The dispute centres on applications by Ligoniel Orange Lodge to march along a stretch of Belfast’s Crumlin Road that separates nationalist and unionist communities.
For the past two summers, they have been refused permission to hold the return leg of their annual 12 July parade along the route.