Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

PSNI chief Matt Baggott challenges politicians to take burden off police on parades

First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness with Danny Kennedy, David Ford and Alex Attwood following a meeting with Chief Constable Matt Baggott

The Chief Constable has challenged politicians to work together on social issues to take the burden off policing contentious parades.

Matt Baggott told the Policing Board yesterday that politicians should consider an independent review to prioritise resources and planning in disadvantaged areas “to help deliver a new vision of social justice and equality” in the same way the Patten Report helped take forward change in policing.

As north Belfast remains on edge following three nights of serious rioting over parading issues, Mr Baggott asked politicians to “please let us all work even harder to create a new vision and reality for people living in the most disadvantaged areas”.

He added: “We have areas which have fallen behind. Residents suffer high suicide rates, health inequality and victimisation from paramilitaries... We (the PSNI) are playing our part in social order, but the burden has to be taken away from policing.”

More than 60 police officers were injured during the riots in the Carlisle Circus area, which were sparked when a republican parade passed an Orange Hall on Sunday.

The Chief Constable said the cost of the violence has been “police injuries, a diversion of resources from improving lives and helping our most vulnerable, fear and damage to Northern Ireland’s reputation”.

The Chief Constable also stated that rulings made by the Parades Commission must be respected.

There have been fears that violence could flare again at the end of the month when an Ulster Covenant memorial parade is expected through north Belfast.

However the Chief Constable said he was hopeful of a resolution. “I am very encouraged by the urgency and positive signs that people are willing to give ground, compromise and seek out reconciliation,” he added.

The First and Deputy First Minister also held talks at Stormont with the Chief Constable yesterday to discuss the recent violence.

First Minister Peter Robinson said parties were “all on the same page” in an effort to address the issues, while Martin McGuinness said there was “an opportunity to resolve future problems over parades”.

Background

More than 60 police officers were injured during three nights of rioting in north Belfast, which sparked when a republican parade passed an Orange Hall on Sunday. There had also been violence the previous week when a band in a Royal Black Institution parade played provocative music outside a Catholic church on Donegall Street.

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