Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Riot talks precede Covenant parade

Bob malcolm

bmalcolm.ct@gmail.com

AFTER rioting and violent protest by loyalists in north Belfast over a lack of determination from the Parades Commission after a republican parade in the area, an uneasy peace has returned to the streets of north Belfast.

The first and deputy first minister have been in talks with PSNI chief Matt Baggot in Stormont. They discussed not only the rioting but the parading issues that surrounded the violence.

Around 60 police officers were hurt during the violence that lasted three consecutive nights.

Deputy first minister Martin McGuiness said that although the violence had been terrible, it may present an opportunity to resolve future parading problems.

He also praised the Royal Black institution for apologising for 'any offence caused' after the 12th of July parade that sparked trouble in the north of the city.

First Minister Peter Robinson said: "We're all on the same page, all the political parties and the chief constable, in terms of our determination to move forward and resolve these issues.

"I'm glad to say we do find common ground in much of what we see the problems being and the best way to progress to resolve those."

Justice minister David Ford, Environment minister Alex Attwood and Regional Development minister Danny Kennedy all attended the meeting.

Policing Board members met with Chief Constable Matt Baggott on Thursday to discuss issues arising from the policing of parades, parades disputes and public disorder.

Board Chair Brian Rea said: "The violence that has been directed at our police officers is unjustified and unjustifiable. As a Board we have been assured by the Chief Constable that there will be robust follow up and arrest of those responsible and for any related unlawful activity."

Police Chief Constable Matt Baggot said: "All of us in leadership must turn this step back into many steps forward.

"I believe that such a new vision would reduce conflict, sectarianism and give far more voice and control back to the vast majority of good people."

An open statement from the Orange Order stated that it notes the public interest concerning the Ulster Covenant centenary celebrations, which culminate in a parade that will take place in Belfast on September 29.

It read: "The recent open letter from the Royal Black Institution has already served to defuse tensions and the Grand Orange Lodge fully supports the sentiments expressed.

"Despite the best efforts of the discredited and unaccountable Parades Commission - to stifle our proud heritage, the Orange Institution prayerfully looks forward to a peaceful day for all of Northern Ireland, as the Unionist family celebrates this milestone in their history."

SDLP Oldpark Councillor Nicola Mallon said: "The withdrawal of plans for feeder parades through Ardoyne is a very positive move which adds to the space for reflection and discussion created by the Royal Black Institution's apology to the priest and parishioners of St Patrick's Church."

Workers' Party representative John Lavery said: "The Workers' Party has repeatedly argued that the sectarian basis of the Stormont Assembly can never be the platform for building a non-sectarian society.

"The only way we can make progress in Northern Ireland is to recognise and confront the malignant nature of sectarianism in our society," he added.

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