Peter Robinson: I am hopeful for a deal on parades by the summer
Published 15/04/2014 | 12:00
Peter Robinson is hoping for wider agreement on parading before the summer.
Whatever happens, he is urging all involved to obey the decisions of the Parades Commission.
Asked if he would support the PSNI in tackling parading disorder from whichever side it came, he was unequivocal.
Last year he criticised some police tactics against loyalist protesters and was critical of some Parades Commission determinations.
"The police have a job to do," the First Minister said. "They have to carry out their role, which is to ensure that people act in accordance with whatever decisions are taken by the Parades Commission."
However, he added: "I just hope that if we can get some wider agreements before the summer that might improve the atmosphere so that we can have the parades in a context where it is more likely to be peaceful. Then everybody can enjoy themselves.
"I think we have to continue to work on those issues. Parades, in my view, are one of the three areas that should not be impossible to resolve."
The three issues referred to are flags, parading and the past.
They were the subject of talks led by Richard Haass and Dr Meghan O'Sullivan (right), two former American diplomats, last year.
The talks ended without agreement but Mr Robinson remains hopeful of progress. He said: "Since the departure of Richard Haass and Meghan O'Sullivan we have continued to make progress. We met earlier on this week and we dealt with a number of papers we had received from experts on legal matters.
"I haven't given up on that process. I want to see us resolve it."
That meeting was between the Executive parties with the exception of the UUP, which pulled out of talks. Mr Robinson said he wanted progress because "I haven't given up on it because the status quo is not satisfactory to me or, I believe, to anybody else".
He said that, where agreement wasn't reached, people should obey the new five-member Parades Commission, which was appointed last December.
He said: "People will have no choice. The new Parades Commission will operate and would be operating no matter what agreements had been reached with Richard Haass.
"The new Parades Commission is the stopgap until we get an alternative, so its decisions will have to be obeyed. We may not like the Parades Commission, we may not like its rulings, but when it takes a decision it has the force of law."