Robinson and McGuinness clash over Orange Order parades
The leaders of Northern Ireland's powersharing government were at loggerheads today over loyal order parades.
First Minister Peter Robinson hit out at comments by deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness who said the Orange Order had yet to make an effort to support a lasting peace.
Mr McGuinness warned that republicans could not be expected to permanently steward loyalist parades that passed through Catholic areas in the face of local opposition.
But Mr Robinson said republicans had contributed to parade tensions and called on Sinn Fein to promote a tolerance of loyal order parades.
"The comments by Martin McGuinness are an abdication of leadership by Sinn Fein on the parades issue," he said.
"His comments totally ignore the fact that Sinn Fein has a legacy of opposing and organising protests against loyal order parades right across Northern Ireland.
"The loyal orders are an integral part of our culture but there is intolerance towards parades by many in the nationalist and republican community.
"Rather than play to the gallery, Martin McGuinness should demonstrate leadership by promoting greater tolerance and respect of parades.
"This is the kind of maturity which will be required if we are to see a resolution to the parades issue."
Yesterday Mr McGuinness said that hundreds of Orange Order parades took place each year, but only a handful now caused controversy.
He said, however, the Order had to act to defuse tensions as other groups including republicans, loyalists and political parties had done during the peace process.
"The days of republicans stretching ourselves and our communities to maintain calm in the face of sectarian provocation cannot last forever," he said.
"It is time for the issue of contested parades to be dealt with once and for all."
He added: "Anything less from the Orange Order is an abdication of their responsibility and will have to be viewed as such by both governments - and in such a scenario that means a clear statement from both that nationalist communities will no longer be subjected to these sorts of triumphalist parades and measures taken to ensure that this happens."
But Mr Robinson said there was an intolerant attitude towards parades and he called for Sinn Fein to work against it.
Mr Robinson added: "As leader of the largest unionist Party in Northern Ireland, I am gravely concerned that there appears to be a backward movement by republicans with regard to parading.
"There will be other parades taking place within coming weeks and months.
"Sinn Fein must take on their mantle of leadership and maturity if Northern Ireland is not to be dragged into the past with further displays of violence and intolerance."