Belfast Telegraph

Police chief in parades warning

Northern Ireland's police chief has warned of a repeat of the violence which marred last summer's marching season and appealed to those involved in parading disputes to reach agreement.

Matt Baggott said he is concerned that dissident republicans may again seek to foment trouble around contentious flashpoints.

Riotous scenes erupted across Northern Ireland last July, the most serious at Ardoyne in north Belfast where police came under sustained attack four nights in a row, and the cost of policing the whole marching season was almost £4 million.

"I saw what happened last summer and I think the terrorists were quite able to exploit areas of disaffection and young people that put real pressure on the PSNI," he said. "They wanted us to overreact but we didn't.

"So am I concerned? Yes. I think what we will have to see in the next three months is even more local dialogue, more give and take."

A legislative framework aimed at resolving contentious parades agreed between the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein floundered when the Orange Order refused to back the plan.

The ill-fated blueprint would have seen the controversial body that adjudicates on whether events proceed - the Parades Commission - replaced with a system aimed at fostering locally based agreements.

Mr Baggott said it is not just the politicians who have a responsibility to resolve the issue.

"I think it's broader than just senior politicians," he said. "I think it's about local groups being willing to engage. It's about different groups willing to give some ground and be more consensual on that.

"And I think the lessons from last year are: why would we want to throw away everything that's happened in the last year in terms of progress? We are in place now: we need investment, we need jobs, we need health, we need education and we are in a recession. Why would we want to throw away money for the sake of a lack of dialogue or a lack of give and take?"

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