Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Parades Commission: Richard Haass can only find a way out of this maze if others work with him

Richard Haass
Richard Haass

On his Twitter account yesterday morning, Robin Percival set out his plans.

He expected a "full day at the Commission", adding: "Should be an interesting day."

The agenda included decisions on a republican commemoration in Castlederg and an Apprentice Boys feeder parade in Belfast.

He is a member of the Parades Commission, the focus of much comment in recent days.

Its decision-making is blamed by some for the standoff on the Woodvale Road in Belfast where a Twelfth march was prevented from passing Ardoyne.

When US diplomat Richard Haass arrives later this year to chair all-party talks on flags, parades and the past, the future of the Commission will be a big part of that dialogue.

Do we need this referee or some different referee?

The story of marching is not just about interesting days but lost days; lost in walks back in time, remembering things from decades and centuries ago.

The political and peace processes have delivered ceasefires, progress on arms decommissioning, the Disappeared and power-sharing at Stormont.

But on some stretches of road, there are protests against Orange parades and republican marches.

A route has yet to be found out of the controversy and conflict that is the marching maze.

And the Haass initiative can – will – only work if others are prepared to work with him.

Not so long ago military support would have been needed to get to this point of the summer.

But Chief Constable Matt Baggott opted for mutual aid, trying to keep some sense of normality in another street drama.

Yesterday, at Windsor House, the Parades Commission may have had an "interesting day".

But it was another day and another reminder of journeys still to be completed and of still difficult days to come.