Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 1 November 2014

Ardoyne parade inquiry will require politicians to behave like grown-ups and resist petulant gestures

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers
Secretary of State Theresa Villiers

It was depressingly predictable, if unforgiveable, that the nationalist parties would reject the latest proposal to end the long running impasse over the Twelfth parade past Ardoyne shops. The SDLP were first out of the blocks to say they would have no part of an independent inquiry into the parade and were quickly followed by Sinn Fein. So now both nationalists and unionists have thrown their toys out of the pram over this issue – the unionists having earlier criticised the Parades Commission ruling barring the Orange Order parade along this stretch of road on its return journey.

This newspaper, heeding the coded and diplomatic language of the Parades Commission in its ruling that further research and resources were needed to solve the problem, had suggested a judge-led inquiry to find a lasting solution to this long-running sore in north Belfast. The Secretary of State has watered this down to an independent inquiry which would produce findings rather than recommendations and the independent panel would have no legal standing, but at least it was a positive move and one backed by the unionist parties.

But, as ever, what one side finds acceptable is vetoed by the other side and we all nod our heads in weary acceptance of the puerile state of local politics.

The SDLP's argument that establishing the panel would undermine the Parades Commission is a red herring. The Commission accepts that it cannot solve this particular problem, so another approach is required.

What is required is for all sides, nationalist and unionist, republican and loyalist, politicians and ordinary citizens, to make an earnest attempt to remove this yearly blot on the parading landscape. That means signing up to the inquiry and assisting it to find a potential solution.

That of course means politicians behaving like grown-ups and taking hard decisions for the good of everyone rather than making grand theatrical and petulant gestures to assuage their own hardliners.

Imagine what Northern Ireland would be like with a maturing political process... perhaps that is a leap of imagination too far.

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