The inevitable violence at Ardoyne: stop blaming others and sort it out
The ugly violence at Woodvale Road last night was the entirely predictable outcome of the failure of common sense to prevail. This was the third year that the Parades Commission has banned the homeward part of one fraction of the Belfast Twelfth celebrations from returning past a nationalist section of the route and the third year that marchers have attempted to defy the ruling.
Yesterday there were 601 parades taking place in Northern Ireland. Only 34 of those were deemed to be sensitive in the eyes of the Parades Commission and only this one resulted in a violent assault on police lines.
While this flashpoint can rightly be regarded as something of an aberration on a day when the Orange Order celebrated its culture, nevertheless the violence is another body blow to the image of the day.
It has to be stated clearly that the Parades Commission - however imperfect a mechanism that is for determining how contentious marches should be conducted - is a body set up by statute and its rulings carry the weight of law.
It is disingenuous of politicians on either side of the community to question the authority of the Commission - and they do when rulings go against their own vision on how parades should be conducted.
That merely encourages the elements on both sides who want to see confrontation or who are determined to stick by their 'not an inch' mentality.
The end result is that police are once again left to hold the line at a time when their resources are under immense pressure through cuts in manpower and finance. The Chief Constable, unlike politicians, does not have the luxury of blaming others when violence erupts. He and his brave officers have to face a barrage of missiles, putting their lives on the line to prevent chaos ensuing.
The proverbial dogs on the street know that on each Twelfth of July this Ardoyne flashpoint will be the scene of disorder. The only hope is that it will not result in the loss of life or serious injury. The shame on this community is that the situation is allowed to arrive at this inevitable conclusion.
Politicians have continued to kick the contentious issues of parades down the road, always putting them on the long finger. There are examples, most notably in Londonderry, when common sense has prevailed and where all sides have reached a mature accommodation which allows the loyal orders to celebrate their culture in a fitting manner without offence either being taken or given.
No one has lost face in this accommodation, yet it is a lesson which others seem incapable of learning. All sides can, and do, point at the obstinacy of others, but that is simply avoiding grasping the nettle.
We need all sides to the dispute, the Orange Order, residents groups, politicians of all hues, the PSNI and the Parades Commission to begin sincere negotiations on the way ahead for a peaceful resolution to this interminable dispute. Anyone who opts out can then clearly be seen as part of the problem.