Unrest last year at a parade in north Belfast. PA Archive/Press Association Images
Northern Ireland

Hopes of getting through marching season 'without public disorder on our streets'

Unionist parties walked out of Stormont over a decision on a contentious parade route earlier this week.

THE ANNUAL 12 July marches are due to take place in Northern Ireland in the coming week.

Earlier this week five Unionist parties walked out of Stormont over a decision to block a contentious parade route in Belfast.

The cross-party negotiations on this parade began last Wednesday, with the walkout occurring on Thursday.

Parades Commission

The parties said that continuing with the talks would be “fruitless”. They also described the Parades Commission as treating their views with “contempt”.

The Commission had decided to bar the Orange Order from marching back down the Crumlin Road in north Belfast on 12 July. This means they would not march past the Ardoyne shops on this road.

The decision of the main Unionist parties to end negotiations was criticised by nationalist politicians and the Alliance Party. Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he was “disappointed but not surprised”.

The PSNI’s chief constable George Hamilton said at the time that the police will uphold the Parades Commission’s decision while working with communities to find solutions.

Violence and disorder in relation to the twelfth is not inevitable – individuals have choices to make about how they conduct themselves.

Today, Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey told This Week on RTÉ Radio 1 that the Unionist walkout was a “disappointing situation”.

But he said he was “still hopeful we can get through July without any public disorder on our streets”.

He rubbished suggestions from Unionists and Orange Orders that there is a “cultural war against their heritage” and said that the basis of the Good Friday Agreement is equality and “fair play and respect for everybody”.

He appealed to people to sit down and have meaningful discussions with residents about marches.

“It is about respecting communities,” he said. “If you want to march somewhere, you should at least have the decency to sit down with the community.”

Ulster Unionist Danny Kennedy said that he hopes a meeting of the Northern Ireland Executive scheduled for Tuesday goes ahead, and that it should deal with the issue of the Ardoyne parade.

He told the BBC that “we’ve got to deal as an executive with those issues”.

Read: Unionist parties all walk out of Stormont talks in protest over parade block>

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