I’ll keep meeting terrorists: Orange chaplain Mervyn Gibson defends engaging with loyalist paramilitaries
Grand chaplain Rev Mervyn Gibson also said he could “see the rationale” in proposals by the Attorney General John Larkin to draw a line under the past.
In an exclusive interview, Rev Gibson hit back at Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness’ claims the Order and UVF, with the PUP, had become “one and the same thing”.
Rev Gibson was part of a DUP delegation which took part in all-party talks chaired by US diplomat Richard Haass aimed at addressing concerns around flags, parades and the past.
In the wide-ranging interview Rev Gibson told how he left the RUC for ministry and his belief his involvement in the Orange Order kept him from joining paramiliaries at the height of the Troubles.
He also affirmed the Orange Order’s commitment to continue protests over the long-running parading dispute in north Belfast.
And the Presbyterian minister said he had no issue with sharing platforms with representatives of proscribed organisations.
“I’ve no problem with anybody who is committed to a peaceful way forward and finding democratic solutions,” he said. “I’ve no difficulty standing beside them and sharing a platform, sharing the same cause.
“We live in a country where those in government were the very ones who put this country through 30 or 40 years of terror.
“We have to accept that and we’re told that’s the democratic right. I find it rich when people accuse unionist figures of standing on a platform with whoever when in the very government of this country are those who caused murder and mayhem.”
In November Mr Larkin sparked controversy when he suggested there should be an end to prosecutions for Troubles killings.
He said there should be no further police probes, inquests or inquiries into any relevant killings that took place before the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
More than 300 members of the Orange Order were murdered by republicans during the Troubles.
Regarding Mr Larkin’s controversial proposals, Rev Gibson said he believed the prospect of justice for many families was very slim.
He added: “I can see the rationale behind his proposal. But it doesn’t take into account the views of many of the victims.
“Just to coldly draw a line under it, while it seems rational wouldn’t cater for the needs of victims. There has to be a realism about people’s thinking but I understand his sentiments.”