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Don't let Twelfth be a day of shame

Amidst all the bluster and accusations of bias against the Parades Commission, people should take heed of the words of Terry Spence, chairman of the Police Federation.

He pointed out that no stretch of road is worth either the injury or death of a police officer or a member of the public. Those words are a chilling echo of a similar expression after the deaths of three young Quinn brothers at the height of the Drumcree dispute in 1998. Who knows if another tragedy could unfold if common sense does not prevail over the flashpoint parade at Ardoyne, although it is encouraging that the Orange Order in that area feels it has come up with a formula for avoiding confrontation.

This newspaper, like the vast majority of people here, will hope the Order's optimism is justified. The potential for a breakthrough followed appeals by the First Minister, Peter Robinson, and police chiefs for calm.

Mechanisms exist - no matter how imperfect some may regard them - to allow people to walk along approved routes and for others to make their equally valid protests. There is no need for confrontation and violence, yet we all know there are those who relish the prospect of both.

While we have been critical of some intemperate remarks by politicians in the past few days, we must also acknowledge that they have done much in recent times to change the political climate in Northern Ireland. Parties have moved from entrenched positions to - literally in the case of Martin McGuinness during the recent Queen's visit - stretch out of the hand of friendship. Such gestures show a willingness to move forward, yet old tensions emerge during the marching season which can undo much of the good work.

It may be fruitless to appeal to the better nature of those who would cause trouble today, yet even they should reflect on the words of Terry Spence.

Gratitude is due to community leaders and those who work behind the scenes to keep the peace.

The Twelfth should be a a time of celebration and respect for one community's cultural expression.

It should not be a day of shame.


From Belfast Telegraph