THE Orange Order has moved its biggest parade of the year away from a flashpoint Catholic Church after a carefully brokered peace deal.

The Grand Lodge of Scotland said next month’s annual Battle of the Boyne commemorative march would not pass St Alphonsus in Glasgow’s East End, where a priest was attacked during the same event last year.

Its announcement came after senior Catholic figures signalled respect for protestant orders’ right to march – but urged that care and respect be shown around exact routes.

Archbishop of Edinburgh Leo Cushley – once one of the Vatican’s most senior diplomats – this week said he saw no reason why Orange marches should not pass churches.

The Herald can reveal that leaders of both the Orange Order and the Catholic Church have been working behind the scenes to break an impasse over St Alphonsus.

HeraldScotland: Members of the Orange Order march through Glasgow during Orangefest, June 2015. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.

Orangefest 2015

Their efforts – through intermediaries – came after growing concerns about the politicalisation of this summer’s marching season.

Glasgow City Council has already ordered several small parades to be re-routed way from St Alphonsus after senior police officers warned of potential confrontations. Some local Glasgow marching organisations had tried and failed to appeal against those decisions in the courts.

However, national Grand Orange Lodge took a different tack. A spokesman told The Herald: “It is widely acknowledged that the right to parade is protected by law.

“However, with those rights comes responsibility. Our parades are a celebration of our own heritage and culture and do not disparage anyone else’s beliefs.

“Recently, there has been an increase in tensions around some parades, and we believe that all parties should show a willingness to engage and diffuse unnecessary tensions.”

Jim McHarg, Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, added: “Our position remains the same, in that we are always willing to engage in open and honest dialogue on the issues at hand.”

Referring to statements by Archbishop Cushley and others, he added: “We fully recognise the recent positive comments from the Roman Catholic Church, and in the spirit of positive co-operation, we have proactively offered to parade on a different route for our main Boyne Celebrations this July. We have made this gesture in the hope that we can continue to progress discussions around a shared long term solution that accepts and respects each other’s religious differences, without the need for religious divides.”

Earlier yesterday the Archdiocese of Glasgow had also issued a carefully crafted statement. Crucially, local church leaders avoided any call for an absolute ban on Orange Walks passing churches – and instead asked for consideration over timings and routes.

It said: “As the traditional marching season reaches its busiest month it is important that people of all faiths and none show good will and common sense to overcome tensions.

“The Archdiocese of Glasgow acknowledges the right of any group or organisation to parade in accordance with the law.

“The preferred solution of the Archdiocese of Glasgow is that marches be scheduled at times and along routes which do not cause difficulties or create anxiety for parishioners attending their local church.

“We trust the police and the local authorities will ensure that safety and public order are paramount when deciding on applications to parade.”

A man has been convicted for spitting on Canon Tom White outside St Alphonsus Church last year. This provoked a campaign of counter-protests outside churches – and demands for an outright ban on marches near Catholic places of worship.

The Herald understands it also raised concerns among those looking to invest in Glasgow.

“A source familiar with the issue said: “The fall-out from the attack on Canon White has not just ratcheted up community tensions but has the potential to damage Glasgow’s reputation across the UK. And that is all of our business.

“As Archbishop Leo Cushley said earlier this week this is stuff from am earlier chapter of our history.”

HeraldScotland:

Canon Tom White

Edinburgh University’s Michael Rosie, a member of the Scottish Government’s Advisory Group on Tackling Sectarianism, stressed just how worried people in the east end of Glasgow had been over this summer’s marching season since the attack on Canon White last July.

He said: “There has been real anxiety – and not just on the Catholic side. I am really pleased and relieved that we are getting to a point where there is room for dialogue. It is really important that we can talk about things like routes and timings rather than abstract, intractable points of principle or law.”

The group behind counter-protests against Orange Marches, Call It Out, has always said it too respects the right of the loyal orders to march - just not past Catholic places of worship, at any time.

HeraldScotland: Monsignor Leo Cushley who takes over at Catholic archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh on saturday from Keith O'Brien prepares in his robes at St Margaret's Chapel in Edinburgh tuesday..

Archbishop Leo Cushley

The Boyne march, scheduled for July 6 to be close to the anniversary of the 1690 battle, may still pass a Catholic Church in the Gorbals, Blessed John Duns Scotus, The Herald understands. Call It Out, as a lay grassroots campaign not controlled by the church, said it would organise a counter-protest if such a route was followed.

A spokeswoman for for the organisation said: “While there has understandably been more focus on anti-Catholic marches passing St Alphonsus, due to the attack on Canon Tom White in 2018, we have been clear in our position that anti-Catholic marches should not pass any Catholic Churches.

“Glasgow council has set precedent recently by re-routing a number of these marches away from Catholic Churches - one such case led to Glasgow Sheriff Court upholding the council’s decision to do so - and we will continue in our campaign to have this practice rolled out as a general policy in order to afford the minority Catholic community the equality and protections it is entitled to in the face of such deep hostility.”