Dialogue can find solution to parade impasse
Published 20/07/2013 | 01:30
As the Orange Order in north Belfast heads towards another potential stand-off at Ardoyne later today, it should heed the words of Darryl Hewitt. Mr Hewitt is a leader of the Order in Portadown, a town which was once a byword for intransigence due to the Drumcree parade dispute.
Today, although Orangemen are still banned from walking down Garvaghy Road, it is clear that brethren in the town have learned from past experience.
Refusal to talk to the residents led ultimately to a ban and subsequently the residents' association has seen no need to engage in talks in return.
Mr Hewitt says that if both parties are willing to talk they should get on with it and wishes the position in Portadown was similar.
A solution is within grasp in north Belfast if there was dialogue. The head of the Crumlin Ardoyne Residents' Association has indicated as much – and even if Orangemen were sceptical about this the only way to call his bluff would be to speak to him.
One unintended consequence of the Order's continuing cranking up of the tension is that it is alienating many decent people who may have previously supported it.
As this newspaper has highlighted repeatedly, as have politicians from all sides, the scenes of violence over the last week were disgraceful and the Order cannot wash its hands of responsibility.
Unfortunately, once again we face the prospect of protests today. Once again, the police will be stuck in the middle and bear the brunt of any trouble which ensues.
One Orangeman is reported in today's newspaper saying he disagrees with much of what the Parades Commission does but hopes Richard Haass will offer a solution.
This may be over-optimistic on his part, as Mr Haass, as the commission has had to do, will have to find a middle path which suits both marchers and local communities.
The bottom line is that dialogue will have to happen and the continual fallout from the Ardoyne parade ban will not help the Order's cause in talks.