Belfast Telegraph

Minister warns over parades body

The Parades Commission in Northern Ireland will be reappointed in January if local politicians fail to reach agreement on controversial marches, the Northern Ireland Secretary has said.

A power vacuum forcing police to decide the route of some parades would be unacceptable, Owen Paterson told a committee of MPs.

This July, dozens of police officers were injured in pitched battles with nationalist rioters at Ardoyne in north Belfast following a contentious Loyal Order parade through the area.

This summer the Orange Order rejected draft parades legislation and refused to take part in a consultation process.

But Mr Paterson warned the clock was ticking for local politicians to make up their minds.

"If they don't we will have to set in train actions which will reappoint a Parades Commission by January next year," he said.

The draft Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests Bill has already been consulted on and is due to go through the Northern Ireland Assembly this autumn.

It was drawn up following the report of the working group on parades set up following agreement on the devolution of policing and justice at Hillsborough.

Mr Paterson said he regretted the violence in Ardoyne which left 80 police injured in battles with suspected dissident republicans. One policewoman had a piece of masonry dropped on her head.

He added: "I think the Parades Commission has done a good job, it took away the difficulty of embroiling the police in difficult decisions on routing, they have resolved the vast majority of contentious parades. It is absolutely not an option to leave a hole."

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