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McGuinness urged to help end parades rows

By Lesley Houston

Published 25/01/2016

Sinn Fein MLA Martin McGuinness speaks to the press at the Millennium Forum in Londonderry on Saturday after announcing he was seeking election as an MLA for Foyle, his home constituency. He is currently an MLA for Mid-Ulster
Sinn Fein MLA Martin McGuinness speaks to the press at the Millennium Forum in Londonderry on Saturday after announcing he was seeking election as an MLA for Foyle, his home constituency. He is currently an MLA for Mid-Ulster

Martin McGuinness has been challenged to help tackle long-standing impasses over parades after saying he could attend the Twelfth of July celebrations if invited.

The Deputy First Minister was urged by UUP MP Tom Elliott to "work positively to get resolutions" to the endemic disputes over parades in Portadown and North Belfast. Drumcree and Ardoyne have been at the heart of parading rows.

Mr Elliott told Sinn Fein's Mr McGuinness to use his position to get lasting resolutions at these flashpoint areas "rather than engaging in empty gesture politics".

But yesterday a spokesman for Sinn Fein told the Belfast Telegraph that the best way to resolve the issue was through dialogue.

And he further challenged Mr Elliott to use his own influence within the Orange Order to engage with representatives from the nationalist community.

Mr Elliott's comments came after Mr McGuinness said he would "give serious consideration" to attending the Twelfth celebrations if the Order was to invite him.

Fermanagh-South Tyrone MP Mr Elliott stated yesterday: "That suggestion might have credibility if the Deputy First Minister was to play a positive role to bring about a resolution to allow the Orangemen to walk a small distance home at Portadown and North Belfast.

"How can you expect the Orange Order to have any confidence in what Martin McGuinness has to say when his own party leader, Gerry Adams, has openly gloated about the role that they played in choreographing protests against the Orange Order in places right across Northern Ireland."

Mr Elliott's comments refer to Gerry Adams' infamous comments in the 1990s that Drumcree hadn't happened by accident but had been achieved by the sowing of "community discord" by Sinn Fein activists across Northern Ireland.

Former UUP leader Mr Elliott stressed Mr McGuinness should "concentrate on attempting to get resolutions to long-standing disputes rather than engaging in empty gesture politics".

"If he did that, some people might find his sentiments more believable. He could do with starting in Ardoyne and Portadown and use his influence to attain a lasting resolution."

A Sinn Fein spokesperson yesterday said the best way to resolve outstanding contentious parades is through dialogue: "Sinn Fein has shown in places like Derry that accommodation can be reached through dialogue between residents, loyal orders, political leaders and the business community.

"Tom Elliott needs to use his influence both as an elected representative and as an Orangeman to get the Orange Order to engage with residents' groups and political leaders representing the nationalist community."

He said the party remained committed to resolving the outstanding parades issues through dialogue.

Belfast Telegraph

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