Northern Ireland

Orange Order's Rev Mervyn Gibson at Haass talks for DUP

Rev Mervyn Gibson
Image caption Rev Mervyn Gibson is to attend the talks for the DUP

A senior Orange Orange member is set to represent the DUP during multi-party talks later this month chaired by US diplomat Richard Haass.

Orange Order grand chaplain Rev Mervyn Gibson has been a prominent spokesman during recent parade disputes.

Two negotiators from each of the main parties have been appointed to the negotiations on parades, flags and other issues dealing with the past.

Rev Gibson is a vocal critic of the Parades Commission.

He said he was very happy to play his part in trying to find a resolution to outstanding problems that exist.

He said he did not know why the DUP had asked him to become involved. He's not a member of the party.

Rev Gibson will join the DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson and Jonathan Bell at the talks.

Sinn Féin is also bringing someone from outside the party to the talks - veteran republican Sean 'Spike' Murray will join North Belfast assembly member Gerry Kelly.

Dr Haass has written to the parties ahead of the talks asking them to answer a series of questions around the issues.

Sources have said the talks will take place one week each month, with a deadline of December to conclude.

They suggest Dr Haass, who served as US envoy to Northern Ireland from 2001 to 2003, is most likely to seek agreement around a set of rules to deal with flags, and parades, while setting out a framework for future talks to deal with the past.

The Ulster Unionist party has appointed Tom Elliott, and party activist Jeff Dudgeon as its representatives.

Assembly members Alex Attwood and Conall McDevitt are representing the SDLP, while MP Naomi Long and MLA Chris Lyttle are leading the Alliance delegation.

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