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Anger over decision to keep silent on parades proposals

By Noel McAdam

Plans to keep new proposals for dealing with contentious parades under wraps — at least initially — have come under fire from both nationalists and unionists.

Residents groups in two former flashpoint areas in Belfast and Portadown voiced concerns the detail of the plans may not be made public.

And the hardline Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister demanded publication of the report, including minutes of all meetings and supporting documentation.

By the end of today a DUP/Sinn Fein working group set up under the Hillsborough Agreement had been expected to report to First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, but there were indications last night the deadline could slip.

Sources said any delay should only be “a couple of days” with the team forwarding its framework later in the week.

The First Ministers’ Office is then expected to examine their blueprint before endorsing the report as the basis for new legislation which could mean the present Parades Commission being given its marching orders.

The DUP has pledged a new system and a new structure which will mean the commission being gone by the end of this year — but Mr McGuinness insisted the days of triumphalist Orange marches going through areas they are not wanted had been “consigned to the history books”.

The Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition in Portadown and the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community in Belfast have offered to meet the working group, which

only began its deliberations a fortnight ago.

Spokesman Breandan MacCionnaith said signs that details might not be made public “would be counter to any sense of openness, transparency and fairness regarding this process”.

And Mr Allister said: “We have had enough secret and side deals, let the searchlight of truth shine into the dark corners of the Sinn Fein/DUP deal, including their joint thinking on parades.”

Meanwhile, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds rounded on Mr McGuinness’s remarks.

“That sort of republican propaganda might play well with his hardcore supporters, but it will not instil community confidence throughout Northern Ireland on other important matters,” the North Belfast MLA said.

“Mr McGuinness needs to show some leadership and stop looking over his shoulder at the dissidents and the SDLP. SF should focus their efforts on getting a new start to parading.”

But the Deputy First Minister hit back: “The Orange Order has to sit up and take notice that the world is changing all around them. They (must) recognise that the days of triumphalist Orange marches through areas where they are not wanted have to be consigned to the history books forever.”

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