Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Brian Rowan: Jaw-jaw, however late, better than war-war

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The message tweeted to me read: "Depressingly efficient. Looked like lorries clipped together like a Transformer to create a brute of a wall dividing a street."

It came from Stewart Finn who once worked for David Ervine and then Dawn Purvis at Stormont. He was describing a metal security structure.

We saw it in east Belfast on Monday being used as a screen as an Orange march passed along the front of the nationalist Short Strand.

To use someone else's tweet, it looked like a kind of moveable peace wall.

That parade was being watched as another indication of how the marching season might develop; watched by the Parades Commission's Peter Osborne, loyalist leader Billy Hutchinson and senior republicans Sean Murray and Bobby Storey.

"I was there on business," PUP leader Hutchinson told the Belfast Telegraph.

The barrier was a sad statement of failure; another reminder that almost 20 years after ceasefires there is still no agreement on marches – no agreement as this place walks ever closer to Ardoyne.

"No Orange feet on the road can't be a starting point," he added. But, a few days ago, he said: "I don't think we should see it as a lost cause or describe it as a lost cause."

What is obvious is that something has to change – and all sides will have to give.

How much is the question.

"Our focus is on resolution rather than management," Murray said.

He was talking not just about Ardoyne, but marching in the wider frame.

"It's becoming more difficult to manage each year," he pointed out.

On Ardoyne, who knows what, if anything, can be agreed at this late stage.

It's last minute, it's late, but it's something that is not to be overstated nor dismissed.