Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Parade tensions call for calm words

Before the Royal Black Preceptory march on August 25 this newspaper warned that the intemperate language of some politicians could be interpreted by other elements as a signal to cause trouble.

Predictably we were proved right when some bands defied a Parades Commission ruling not to play outside St Patrick's Roman Catholic Church in Donegall Street and police officers were injured in the ensuing violence.

But just as predictably it seems that the careless rhetoric continues ahead of the Ulster Covenant commemoration parade due to pass the same church at the end of this month. Once again there is the sound of people taking up positions, digging their trenches and sending out the wrong signals.

The SDLP, backed by Sinn Fein, is moving to censure DUP Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland for not criticising the sectarian behaviour of loyalist bands. While this newspaper has reservations about the minister's behaviour and comments and believes he has questions to answer, this is an issue which should be debated well after the parade has taken place.

Likewise it is disappointing that even Fr Michael Sheehan from St Patrick's is not more accepting of the statement by the Orange Order that bands will only play hymns when passing the church.

Fr Sheehan, along with nationalist politicians, wants wider talks between the Order and the local residents' group, a demand which somewhat devalues the Order's movement on bands. That said, someone from the Order could still meet the residents to discuss the issue, but the subtle mood music of the statements and demands does not augur well for such a meeting.

Ultimately this parade - which is an important celebration for unionists - should be allowed to take place in as peaceful an atmosphere as possible. The ramping up of the rhetoric at the moment is unnecessary and given the very recent history of trouble following parades in the area, shows that people have not learned the lesson of playing fast and loose with words. We need to rein in emotions, not heighten tensions around what is always an emotive subject.

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