Belfast Telegraph

Parades policy still up in air: Name-changes will make little difference on contested marching areas such as Ardoyne

By Brian Rowan

In the many words and sentences of the Stormont House Agreement, the parading section barely marches from one page onto the next. It is a story told - or not told - in just five paragraphs.

Included is a UK Government proposal that: "Powers to take responsibility for parades and related protests should, in principle, be devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly."

There is a date of June 2015 for proposals to be brought forward, a timeline that walks very close to July and the height of the summer marching season.

But, whatever happens, whatever changes are agreed, we might be forgiven for thinking out loud: "I can't believe it's not the Parades Commission."

Eventually, office names will change, but there will still be a body to rule on contentious marches.

In earlier draft documents, before the Stormont House Agreement, there was reference to the Office for Parades and Related Protests, and an Authority for Public Events Adjudication.

But those name-changes will make little difference on contested marching ground in places such as the Woodvale/Ardoyne interface.

"Any technical and administrative change should be welcomed," Ulster University academic Dr Jonny Byrne said.

"But the reality is that, without a local transformation in attitudes towards parading, any future process is unlikely to address current and historical challenges and problems."

His argument is easily understood. You can change a decision-making structure, but unless you change the mood then nothing has really changed.

So, this is not just about decisions at a high political level, but how those decisions will roll down Stormont's hill to those places where parades and protests meet.

It is not just about words and sentences and paragraphs and shifting responsibility to Stormont.

Rather, it is trying to do something that people will buy into.

The Haass talks of a year ago started to think of ways of changing the parading structure.

And, now, there is to be more thinking about how to do just that.

Will it make a difference? Let's watch next summer's marching space.

Brian Rowan is a security journalist

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