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Talks between Sinn Fein and loyalist parades leaders ‘worthwhile’

By Noel McAdam

Gerry Adams and loyalist parades leaders have agreed to meet again in a bid to prevent a repeat of the violence seen on the Twelfth.

Ground-breaking talks between community leaders and a Sinn Fein delegation led by Mr Adams yesterday were said by both sides to have been “worthwhile”.

The Sinn Fein president and the North and West Belfast Parades and Cultural Forum also agreed that any parades or protests should be peaceful.

The follow-up meeting was arranged after more than two hours of discussions at Belfast City Hall — the first time the parades group has agreed to talk to Sinn Fein directly.

Yesterday’s talks followed a threat by the republican Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) to attempt to disrupt an Apprentice Boys feeder parade on Saturday, August 14.

GARC was involved in the sit-down protest over the homecoming Orange Order parade on July 12, which lead to three nights of intense rioting in north and west Belfast.

More than 80 PSNI officers were injured during the disturbances and it has emerged that a special police task force has been established to investigate the disorder.

Police officers came under sustained attack from youths throwing bricks and wielding metal bars and planks.

After three nights of violence, Mr Adams reiterated his offer to meet with the loyal orders — an overture immediately rejected by Orange leaders — but last week the forum agreed to talks. Ahead of yesterday’s meeting, Mr Adams said: “Sinn Fein is happy to meet with anyone, including the North and West Parades Forum, to discuss matters relating to loyal order marches.

“We are also happy to facilitate discussions between those who want to march through areas and the people who live there. Sinn Fein believes that dialogue is the best means of resolving those confrontations that occur around a small number of parades.”

A spokesman for the forum said: “We intend to explore with Sinn Fein what influence they can exert in ensuring that any protests against parades are peaceful and lawful.

“We are prepared to meet Sinn Fein to remove all doubt about the commitment and resolve of the parade organisers in reaching a compromise solution that is acceptable to everyone.”

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