Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Ardoyne Twelfth parade: Row over benighted piece of Tarmac needs settled forever

The mobile steel barrier separating marchers from residents at Tuesday night's Mini Twelfth in Belfast
The mobile steel barrier separating marchers from residents at Tuesday night's Mini Twelfth in Belfast

The controversy over the Ardoyne parade on the Twelfth has become the symbol of our fractured, dsyfunctioning peace. Everything about yesterday was predictable. Under the terms of the Parades Commission remit it was obvious what the ruling would be.

It was obvious the Orange Order would howl with outrage. It was obvious unionist politicians would make a showboating exit from talks and it was obvious certain republican residents' groups would crow about the result and make faux statements about how they were ready to talk to the Order as if they were truly representative bodies instead of organisations without a mandate.

In truth, this small stretch of the road is not the real issue anymore. Rather, it stands as a symbol of a divided community.

Everyone else watches in despair – and more importantly, the outside world shakes its head in bemusement.

The Orange Order needs to be given a way out of this dispute. The commission is right to urge the lodges to fully discuss their reasoning about why this particular stretch of road is so important, and to suggest that more resources are given to the search for a compromise solution.

It should be noted that in Glasgow parade routes are changed all the time without the civil disorder we are likely to see here this month.

The commission itself is, of course, the whipping boy. It really had nowhere to go on this decision.

Yet the new commission has had a less than sure-footed start, particularly over the Gavaghy Road U-turn, and even yesterday it was poor at putting over in plain language what were some decent suggestions on the potential way forward.

But here is the nub. This tiny stretch of road is beyond the commission's statute now. It is beyond our politicians from either side and it is beyond the Orange Order and the self-appointed residents' groups.

Forget flags, the past and the wider issue of parades. We are not capable of even sitting around a table and discussing these now.

What needs to happen is a total focus on this one 10-minute march. We need to have a commission headed by a UK judge (how about a Scottish one?) that is empowered to fact-find, maybe even commission market research, to compel witnesses, to speak to people beyond the self-appointed and self-motivated, to hear the great unheard, to examine history and other marches and to report back once and for all on this benighted piece of Tarmac.

Its remit would be to make lasting recommendations ahead of next year.

Not everyone will agree with the findings. Some side will always claim to have "lost". But it should serve as a final say on this dreary, depressing issue.

The British and Irish Governments must step in to insist this happens.

We need to move on.

Unionists stand together in urging Theresa Villiers to back Belfast Telegraph plan to resolve parade crisis  

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