David Ford urges Twaddell loyalists to give up protests
Loyalists manning a protest camp at a volatile north Belfast interface have been urged by Stormont's Justice Minister to give it up ahead of the marching season.
David Ford also stressed the importance of the five main political parties reaching agreement on long-standing disputes over parades before the Twelfth of July commemorations.
A parading wrangle at Twaddell Avenue, which prompted the protest camp to be set up last summer, is one of the issues set to feature high on the agenda during fresh political talks at the end of this month.
Violence flared there last summer when Orangemen were banned by the Parades Commission from marching up a section of the Crumlin Road.
Police have maintained a presence in the area to keep the peace – an operation that has cost more than £9m.
Mr Ford told the Assembly it was time for the camp to go.
"The reality is that money (to police the camp) which is now lost, which could have been used for policing priorities in other areas, could have been used in a variety of projects which I suspect every MLA could identify in their constituency in terms of the ongoing work of community policing and which sadly has been expended for no good purpose whatsoever.
"It really is time that those who are involved in that particular camp recognise the reality of the law, recognise where the Parades Commission's lawful determinations have led them, accepted that point and gave up their protest."
Representatives of the five Executive parties will also be striving for consensus on dealing with issues around flags and the legacy of the past in two three-day sessions of negotiations.
Asked at the Assembly about apparent weakness in Westminster legislation around parades, Mr Ford said: "The best solution to dealing with the parading problems in legislation is when we get agreement amongst the five parties of the Executive and we ensure we can carry legislation forward in this Assembly and not rely on the Secretary of State doing it at Westminster."