Belfast Telegraph

Ardoyne march poll: 41.6% support inquiry to end parade deadlock

Day 2 of our exclusive survey reveals public backing for Belfast Telegraph plan to hold independent probe into parade

By Liam Clarke

The public back an independent inquiry to resolve the Ardoyne parading dispute, a major Belfast Telegraph poll has revealed.

The results give the first significant indication of how the people of Northern Ireland believe the row which has split our political parties could be solved.

Excluding those who offered no opinion, 41.6% of people backed the idea for a separate commission of inquiry, which was first put forward earlier this year by the Belfast Telegraph.

Another 15.9% felt the decision over Orange marches in Ardoyne should simply be left to the Parades Commission. That gives a total of 57.5% in favour of some form of adjudication.

Unionists have also called for an inquiry to examine the impasse over Orangemen's demands to complete their march along the contentious stretch of the Crumlin Road.

The dispute has led to violence in previous years.

The figures will be of interest this week because Theresa Villiers, the Secretary of State, is due to give a decision on the issue as part of the choreography for all party talks.

In the past she has said she supports the idea but will not act without cross-community buy-in.

Unionists have warned they may not take part in talks announced by Ms Villiers unless the issue is resolved and an inquiry set up.

The problem arises because of an annual stand-off when Orange lodges from Ligoniel are prevented from marching along the Crumlin Road past Ardoyne shops on the Twelfth of July evening.

In its determination restricting the march this year the Parades Commission called for an inquiry to sample opinion and make recommendations on the whole issue of parading in the area.

We gave the 1,089 people surveyed four choices.

The first was that the parade should be allowed to return past Ardoyne shops, the second was that it should not, the third was the independent inquiry and the fourth was that the decision should be left for the Parades Commission to take next year.

Including the don't knows (DKs), as we shall do for the rest of this article, the Belfast Telegraph's inquiry idea still had the backing of more than a third of people (35.2%), far more than any other option.

It is also the only option with significant cross-community support, securing the backing of 39.9% of Protestants and 37.3% of Catholics, although the main nationalist parties currently oppose it.

"We need a commission to look at all parading issues and make binding judgments that should last 10 years," one Catholic supporter proposed.

Simply allowing the parade to go ahead, as the Orange Order has advocated at its demonstrations, was backed by less than a fifth of respondents.

"We should be allowed to walk anywhere we want," one said.

Support for this attitude was concentrated amongst Protestants, 30.8% of whom endorsed the idea compared to only 5.1% of Catholics.

Another option of not allowing the parade also had the support of less than a fifth of people (17.5%).

This included 35.1% of Catholics but only 3.5% of Protestants.

The final option of leaving the decision until the Parades Commission makes it next year had the support of 13.4% of people.

It had the strongest support amongst people of no religion (20.9%) and least amongst Protestants (5.3%). It was supported by more Catholics, but still a low number of 13.4%.

It was noticeable that a high number of Protestants, just over a fifth, were undecided on the parade issue.

Belfast and district is the area most affected by the dispute. It came out 33.8% in favour of the inquiry. Just over 13.% of Belfast respondents preferred to let the parade go ahead, 21.5% wanted to stop it and 13.1% would leave the decision to the Parades Commission.

There were 16.5% were DKs in Belfast.

Other questions today are also relevant to the proposed all-party talks. They deal with welfare reform and the Maze Long Kesh site. There is no clear majority opinion on either.

Belfast Telegraph

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