Belfast Telegraph

It's time to resolve parade dispute

Editor's Viewpoint

It seems that common sense is starting to infiltrate the mindsets of all sides locked in the impasse over the Orange Order parade at Ardoyne in north Belfast. The stand-off which saw the creation of the Twaddell Avenue protest camp in 2013 has been a festering sore which desperately needs to be lanced.

According to the report in this newspaper today, a man heralded as one of the main brokers of a deal on loyal order marches in Londonderry is attempting to get a similar blueprint adopted in Belfast.

From the outset it has to be said that there are hundreds of loyal order marches each year which pass off without incident or controversy and the row over this north Belfast parade is one of very few that continue to be a blot on the landscape.

The impasse has been continuing since an Orange Order lodge was prevented from marching back past Ardoyne during the Twelfth in 2013, having been allowed to march down the road that morning.

As a result, serious violence occurred and, as ever, the PSNI found itself caught in the middle and dozens of officers were injured. The scenes which went out on television screens around the world created a very negative image of the province and did the reputation of the Order itself untold harm.

What the Order and those objecting to the march have to accept is that the Parades Commission, established by statute, has a duty to make a decision on every public parade and lay down whatever conditions it deems suitable. Those conditions should be obeyed by all.

But it should also be borne in mind that the commission prefers local stakeholders on disputed parade routes to find a mutual solution. That requires leadership, maturity and a willingness to compromise - attributes which are often in very short supply when tempers get frayed.

However, there now seems to be concerted efforts - aided by constructive leadership - to move forward. Inevitably the looming Assembly elections will cast a shadow over the talks as various elements will be reluctant to be seen to be weakening on this dispute.

But surely even the most truculent participants must realise that there are no winners in the current impasse which has cost £18m to police. Londonderry shows that mutual respect between marchers and residents is attainable if the will is present.

Belfast Telegraph

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