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Frosty start for new parades group

By Noel McAdam

Initial moves to implement the Hillsborough Agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein got under way at Stormont yesterday — though not without controversy.

A schedule of work was agreed by the six-strong working group on parading made up of DUP and Sinn Fein MLAs, who plan to meet almost every day to meet their deadline in less than a fortnight.

Talks involving the leaders of the main parties with First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy FM Martin McGuinness agreed to a series of further meetings.

Their first meeting, to identify a possible candidate for the position of Justice Minister, ended with only one party nominating — the SDLP, whose new leader Margaret Ritchie formally named the party’s last European candidate, barrister Alban Maginness.

The SDLP insists under the D’Hondt procedure, which was used to form the Executive, it would be entitled to the next position, — the new Justice Ministry.

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey, who declined to make any nomination at the meeting, said there had not been any substantive progress.

Alliance leader David Ford, who also withheld a nomination, said there had been some “frostiness” at the meeting but it appeared that Sinn Fein and the DUP were continuing the “constructive and positive engagement” which produced last Friday’s blueprint.

After the first meeting of the parades working group, Sinn Fein member Gerry Kelly said the atmosphere was “business-like” and it planned to meet daily over the next two weeks.

“It has to be sorted out between the residents and the people who march in those areas, making dialogue and resolution easier. We are not trying to bring forward some miracle.”

Ulster Unionist chief whip Fred Cobain said the make-up of the parades group was “symptomatic of the DUP/Sinn Fein carve-up that is crippling Northern Ireland”.

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