Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

Ardoyne parade impasse in north Belfast can be broken

PSNI officers stand firm as trouble flared in the Ardoyne area on the Twelfth of July in 2013. Pic Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker
PSNI officers stand firm as trouble flared in the Ardoyne area on the Twelfth of July in 2013. Pic Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker
Secretary of State Theresa Villiers

Last week this newspaper advocated the establishment of a judge-led commission to examine and find a solution to the impasse over the Ardoyne parade in north Belfast.

It would have, we suggested, wide-ranging powers to investigate the context of the dispute and to propose a solution.

We had noted that the Parades Commission, which has banned a return march past the Ardoyne shops tomorrow, felt that it was being asked to consider social and political issues outside its remit and that this issue should be examined in a holistic manner, taking in the views of the whole community.

We are therefore heartened to hear the unionist parties, along with the Orange Order, commend our proposal and ask the Secretary of State to set up a commission of inquiry. This, of course, must not merely be an inquest into the decision taken by the Parades Commission.

We would want no part of that. Instead it must be an attempt to move things forward and to come up with a proposal that would be in place well before next year's marching season.

While the Secretary of State has been cautious in her response – obviously keen not to say or do anything that could inflame the situation – it is self-evident that for any commission to succeed it must have the backing of all the stakeholders in this dispute.

Nationalists and politicians fear this is a unionist attempt to undermine the Parades Commission, so the Secretary of State must make it clear that that body will continue to make decisions on contentious parades. There is no alternative arbitration organisation on the horizon.

It is also self-evident that all those who sign up to the proposed commission must also accept whatever decision is reached. Ideally that would mean compromise on all sides, but traditionally every contentious decision here is viewed only through the prism of winners and losers.

But as we await the Secretary of State's response to the call for a commission of inquiry, our immediate concern is that the calls by unionist leaders and the Orange Order for all protests to be peaceful are heeded.

That would set a more hopeful tone for future discussions.

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