Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Peaceful Twelfth deserves praise

A standard bearer with Enniskillen Fusiliers Flute Band
A standard bearer with Enniskillen Fusiliers Flute Band

Much praise has been heaped on the Orange Order and unionist politicians for their leadership which helped defuse tensions over the controversial Ardoyne parade.

It was a justified reaction because the situation was so volatile that a wrong word or action could have stirred up violence just as happened last year. What the Order and politicians demonstrated is that while acknowledging their grievance caused by the Parades Commission decision not to allow the parade's return journey past shops at Ardoyne, they created a context in which it was possible to dissipate the feelings of anger.

There was obviously similar work being done on the nationalist side with the protest groups keeping a low profile, both visually and in word. All of this was a mature reaction to a controversial decision and the wonder is why all sides in such disputes don't display such leadership and desire to avoid trouble more often.

Of course one quiet parade doesn't make a marching season and the hope is that marchers and protesters take a similar view to other potentially difficult parades or decisions from the commission which they don't like. The police, with new Chief Constable George Hamilton striking a firm but fair tone in the run-up to the Twelfth, also played their part in ensuring that everything went off peacefully.

This creates the breathing space which should lead to the establishment of a commission to determine a once-and-for-all solution to the Ardoyne impasse.

The commission was first mooted by this newspaper and largely taken up by unionist politicians. Nationalists also need to sign up to it if they are serious about finding a long-term solution. And, of course, the sidelined party leaders' talks about flags, parades and the past should also be resumed as soon as possible to tackle the broad sweep of these festering issues.

It is in the interests of everyone, except the nihilistic dissidents who want to return Northern Ireland to conflict, to have a future where differing traditions and cultures can be celebrated in an air of tolerance and without triumphalism.

Maybe this Twelfth gave us a glimpse of that future.

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