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Unionism's coalition on parades collapses in acrimony

By Nevin Farrell

A unionist coalition on parades has fallen apart amidst acrimony after the DUP and Ulster Unionists were accused by smaller parties of breaking a "no negotiation" pledge.

Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister and Ukip's David McNarry claimed the two main parties had "welched" on a commitment not to discuss the issue of parades in the wider cross-party talks at Stormont until a contentious dispute in north Belfast was resolved.

The coalition was formed in the summer in response to restrictions placed on the Woodvale/Ardoyne Orange Order parade.

Orangemen were prevented from completing the parade in the area for a second year in succession as part of traditional 12th of July loyal order commemorations.

"There cannot be a united response on the issue of parading when some parties engage in discussions with republicans on the issue while keeping fellow unionists in the dark about the fact that these discussions are taking place never mind the substance of them," the TUV and Ukip said in a joint statement.

The Orange Order said it wanted to meet the unionist parties concerned to clarify the situation.

A DUP spokesman said the withdrawals were "deeply disappointing", but added: "There is absolutely no basis for this action."

The DUP claimed both Mr Allister and Mr McNarry "have been itching to break up the unity we have been building within unionism".

An Ulster Unionist Party spokesman described the action by the other parties as "regrettable".

The spokesman added: "Putting selfish party interest before the good of the people is not the way forward."

Last week, one of the lodges at the centre of the dispute - Ballysillan LOL 1891 - said it could not support the Secretary of State's initative involving a parading panel for north Belfast.

Instead, it called on Theresa Villiers to set up a judge-led inquiry on parading in the area.

The Progressive Unionist Party last night also said it was no longer part of the coaltion the unionist coalition.

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