Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Gerry Adams rejoins the debate on disputed parades

Disturbances On Garvaghy Road Portadown May 1998. Rioters hurl stones at RUC riot police on the Garvaghy Road, Portadown, Northern Ireland, during disturbances following an Orange parade in the area.
Mark Harbinson pictured at Drumcree July 2000

Twenty-four hours after loyalist leader Jackie McDonald urged Orangemen to walk away from the Drumcree dispute, Gerry Adams has again entered the marching debate.

In his weekly blog for the Belfast Media Group, the Sinn Fein president warned that society “cannot afford the negative and unsustainable political, financial and social costs from parading disputes”.

Both McDonald and Adams have said there should be no march on the Garvaghy Road in Portadown without the consent of local residents.

Their comments come as a Stormont working group gets ready to report on “a new and improved framework” to rule on parades.

“There are over three thousand Orange marches in the north every year,” Adams writes.

“Generally speaking they pass off without any great fuss, not least because of the tolerance of everybody else. There are a small number of contentious parades which for years caused considerable difficulties.

“One of the big problems incidentally touched on by a loyalist leader Jackie McDonald this week is that the Orange would march into an area where they were unwelcome and leave everybody else to deal with the consequences in the weeks and months afterwards.”

In an interview with this newspaper yesterday, UDA brigadier McDonald attacked “triumphalism” linked to marches, and also criticised Sinn Fein’s involvement with protests, saying that had “polluted” the atmosphere.

In his blog, Adams writes: “That the lid was generally kept on some of these areas is down to local residents and Sinn Fein representatives.

“But there has also been good steady work done by others on the unionist side, including sensible people in loyalist and community organisations.

“Irrespective of the differences between us there is clearly a need to focus on how to resolve the remaining handful of contentious parades in a spirit of mutual respect.”

In Portadown and on the lower Ormeau Road in Belfast, McDonald believes that should involve Orangemen walking away.

Adams says the challenge is “to go beyond settling contentious parades”. “We need to build a new relationship of tolerance and respect,” he writes.

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