Belfast Telegraph

Orangemen offer parade row talks

The Orange Order has said it hopes a new plan could resolve the current impasse over a controversial parade at a north Belfast flashpoint.

Its 'Twaddell Initiative' promises full and open dialogue with nationalist residents but warns that negotiations will only happen after Orangmen complete the last leg of a contentious loyalist march in Ardoyne.

"A few moments of tolerance on a quiet Saturday morning can move the situation forward and create a positive platform, both for the 2014 parades and the Haass talks," a statement said.

The Orange Order wants three Ligoniel lodges and two bands to be allowed on a contested stretch of Crumlin Road at 9am next Saturday, October 5 and said it would be applying to the Parades Commission adjudication body for permission.

The statement added: "The parade will consist of the three Ligoniel lodges and two bands banned from the Crumlin Road on July 12 by the Parades Commission.

"We are committed to full and open dialogue with Ardoyne residents for the 2014 parades that can commence immediately after our return to Ligoniel Orange Hall."

Serious violence erupted in the area when Orangemen were stopped from marching past Ardoyne while returning from their annual Twelfth of July demonstrations.

Dozens of police officers were injured when loyalists pelted them with bricks, bottles and heavy masonry. One rioter also used a ceremonial sword to attack police lines.

Since then, loyalists have set up camp at Twaddell Avenue to protest against the Parades Commission determination which they claim rewarded last year's violence by republicans. They have held weekly parades to voice their opposition to the Commission.

The PSNI revealed the cost of monitoring the protest camp was around £50,000-a-day.

Parading difficulties fall under the remit of former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass who has been appointed to chair multi-party talks aimed at resolving Northern Ireland's most divisive issues.

The ex-White House envoy met representatives from the Orange Order during the first round of negotiations in Belfast earlier this month.

The Orange statement added: "We believe the time is right to launch this initiative to resolve the present impasse and address the unique situation that the Parades Commission determination created at Woodvale.

"We are also conscious that the issue of parades, flags and the past are to be the subject of intensive and ongoing political discussion. We wish to contribute to a positive atmosphere for the Haass talks and assist them to reach a successful conclusion."

Northern Ireland has been dogged by sporadic street violence since last December.

During the winter months, loyalist paramilitaries were blamed for orchestrating riots in north and east Belfast over the decision limiting the flying of the Union flag over Belfast City Hall.

In August republicans were criticised for staging an IRA commemoration parade in Castlederg, the Co Tyrone town that suffered significantly during the Troubles.

And, political relations within the power sharing institutions at Stormont have also been strained causing the Democratic Unionists to withdraw support for a new peace centre on the site of the former Maze prison over fears it could glorify terrorism.

The Orange Order said it was committed to dialogue so further problems do not arise during next year's marching season.

Ulster Unionist Mark Cosgrove who is a member of the Belfast Parades Forum said he believed the 'Twaddell Inititiative' would be widely welcomed.

"A peaceful and dignified parade on a quiet Saturday morning in October past the shared space of the Crumlin Road including the Ardoyne shops where both communities have worked together and shopped together for years can surely not offend any fair minded person," he said.

DUP leader Peter Robinson described the Orange Order proposal as a genuine attempt to reach consensus.

He said: "The onus is now upon nationalism to show leadership and to respond positively to this genuine attempt to reach accommodation. They must face down the elements in their community who wish to drag Northern Ireland back.

"The act of sharing a main arterial route for a few minutes would boost community relations in north Belfast significantly and generate a positive atmosphere for the Haass process."

In a statement Joe Marley, a spokesman for the Crumlin Ardoyne Residents Association (CARA) said preconditions could not be put on talks.

"CARA believes the only way to resolve these issues is direct engagement and dialogue between local residents and local lodges. These talks should focus on the future and have no preconditions.

"The Ardoyne community has shown great restraint in the face of extreme provocation and we urge the Parades Commission to stand by the original determination and not capitulate to loyalist violence or the threat of violence, intimidation and law breaking."

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