Belfast Telegraph

Call time on parades during Haass talks

By Bob Malcolm

Traders have been urged by a north Belfast politician to call for a moratorium on parades while the Haass talks continue.

At the same time, Unionists have called into question a Parades Commission determination to have music banned at the protests held in Twaddell Avenue which have now been going on for 75 nights.

Saturday's Loyalist Peaceful Protesters (LPP) parade from City Hall to Woodvale in north Belfast went off peacefully, but breached the Parade Commission's determination relating to the time in which the parade left the city centre. Police used loudspeakers, and digital signs pointed out that the parade was unlawful, but PSNI officers did not intervene.

There were approximately 3,000 participants and supporters, and around 600 police officers stationed in Belfast city centre.

This Saturday thousands are to take to the streets again during a loyalist 'Ulster Day' parade that celebrates the centenery of the UVF and the 101st anniversary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant.

Organisers of the parade stated they expected 8,000 participants, including 42 bands, to take part in the parade and 10,000 supporters.

SDLP Justice spokesman and north Belfast MLA Alban Maginness made his call for traders to ask for a suspension on parades after the LPP group deliberately defied the Parades Commission determination on Saturday.

CBI Northern Ireland chairman Ian Coulter said retailers told him they had suffered a loss of trade during the afternoon, but that things picked up again later in the day and that parades and rioting since the December 3 decision by Belfast City Council not to fly the Union Flag from City Hall had had a detrimental effect on businesses.

Alban Maginness said: "Traders should be calling for a moratorium on all parades, marches and demonstrations during the currency of the Haass process.

"This will give an opportunity for businesses to stabilise themselves and enjoy the run-up to the Christmas holiday."

Meanwhile, North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds condemned the latest Parades Commission determination against music being played at all parades in the area.

"This is another ridiculous decision by this discredited Parades Commission," he said.

"The evening parades from Woodvale Road to Twaddell Avenue take place in an entirely Unionist area. They have been peaceful throughout and are a legitimate form of peaceful protest in support of the Ligoniel lodges and bands.

"People have the right to make their views known. What are we coming to, that the Parades Commission will not permit these lawful demonstrations within the Unionist community to take place without restriction?"

UUP Councillor Mark Cosgrove questioned the "timing and motivation" of the determination. He said there had been 75 nights of peaceful parades with thousands in attendance and no arrests.

"Unprovoked antagonism from the Parades Commission towards the Orange Order and the wider Unionist people only serves to create further division within the main traditions in Northern Ireland, at a time when there is an on-going process to find accommodation. However I would urge people to remain calm and for all parades and protests to remain completely peaceful. We want to be focused on creating jobs, wealth and opportunity in north Belfast and all of Northern Ireland."

Individuals and groups are invited to send their proposals for dealing with the past, parades and emblems to talks chairman Richard Haass and vice-chair Meghan O'Sullivan by emailing submissions@ panelofpartiesNIE.com

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