Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: MLAs should stay quiet on marches

If Solomon had been asked to resolve the annual disputes over parades in Northern Ireland he would have ended up tearing his hair out.

Our modern day equivalent to the Biblical man of wisdom - the Parades Commission - attempts to find the middle ground, but that seems to be the only patch of earth that neither side wants to occupy. And the commission's job is not made any easier by the intemperate and ill-considered remarks of our political leaders.

Peter Robinson, Nigel Dodds, Gerry Kelly and Mitchel McLaughlin have all criticised the genuine attempts of the commission to give a balanced adjudication on two contentious marches - at Glenavy in Co Antrim and at Ardoyne in north Belfast. It is strange that the DUP and Sinn Fein are at pains throughout the year to talk up their efforts to devise cross-community initiatives, to encourage integrated education and, generally, to show how well they get on together.

Yet when it comes to the Twelfth, all common sense seems to go out the window. They must realise that their remarks - however they are meant - will be interpreted by wilder elements in both communities as a green light for violence.

The trouble-makers will argue that even senior politicians think the commission's adjudications are unfair and therefore should be challenged by any means possible.

The question must be asked - why do the politicians feel they need to make such remarks? What gallery are they playing to and will they feel any responsibility if indeed violence ensues?

The wisest course of action for the politicians would be to keep their own counsel, say nothing and work behind the scenes to defuse tensions. Their job is to lead society here into a brighter, more inclusive, more tolerant future where everyone's culture is acknowledged and respected.

They will not succeed if they continue to ratchet up tension with poorly judged comments which serve only to give a veneer of cover to those hell-bent on causing violence.

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