Belfast Telegraph

Talk, then walk, is the way forward

Editor's Viewpoint

Critics of the Parades Commission, including senior politicians, would do well to read the words of one member of the body in this newspaper today.

Frances Nolan has impeccable unionist credentials; her father was an Orangeman and she served in both the RUC and PSNI, rising to senior rank. She describes herself as having a staunchly unionist and staunchly Protestant background. Little wonder that she takes the criticism that the commission is institutionally corrupt or anti-Protestant as a personal insult.

She remembers first-hand the terrible events surrounding the Drumcree stand-off and the bravery of police officers holding the line in those days as they have done every night this week at a cost of 71 officers injured.

The commission's decisions, as we have pointed out repeatedly, will never satisfy all sides but they are lawful decisions, honestly taken and should be respected and obeyed.

Ms Nolan's comments came as Richard Haass, the man who heads up the working party which will begin looking at contentious issues such as parades, flags and emblems and the legacy of the past, held his first talks with political parties here.

He is no stranger to Northern Ireland having served previously as US special envoy and is aware of the challenges facing him. What is hoped is that he can bring fresh thinking to the problems and get politicians and others away from the idea that every proposed solution is either a victory or defeat.

He brings with him influential diplomats and the team is keen to include as wide a representation at the talks as possible. Contentious parades, as the past week has shown, have an impact on everyone in their locality, and it is right that as broad a consensus as possible is found on the way forward.

The Orange Order seems willing to engage in discussions but it would be well advised to call off Saturday's planned march in north Belfast, including part of the Crumlin Road. It can only keep tension at fever pitch and stir up more trouble. That is in no one's interest, least of all the Order's.

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