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Wise heads needed after Ardoyne blow

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 29/06/2016

Police officers and loyalists in a stand-off near Twaddell last yearey
Police officers and loyalists in a stand-off near Twaddell last yearey

It is tempting to throw one's hands in the air in despair after attempts to resolve the Ardoyne parading impasse broke down. But it has to be recognised that this is a difficult issue with many competing forces at play. It is not a simple Orange Order/residents' committee discussion, as there are other bodies in the background less inclined to find a solution.

Around this time last year this newspaper, along with others, urged those of each side of this divide to begin earnest negotiations, and it is clear that there have been ongoing discussions which we must applaud. The violence at Ardoyne last year did not provide an encouraging backdrop to the talks and it is to the credit of all those involved that they were prepared to sit down with facilitators.

It is notable that while those talks have not borne fruit at this time, those involved are not saying the breakdown is irrevocable. There is still a hope that the discussions will be resurrected, and certainly it would be the wish of most people in Northern Ireland that all sides to the dispute would get back around the table as soon as possible.

Unlike on other occasions when discussions have failed, there is a noticeable lack of rancour or attempts to blame each other on this occasion. Perhaps that shows a greater maturity and a steelier resolve to find a solution.

At this time of great uncertainty following the Brexit vote it is imperative that Northern Ireland presents the best possible face to the world. It is clear there is little goodwill towards the UK from its former partners in the EU, and violence on Northern Ireland's streets in the coming months can only further alienate would-be investors from around the world who are already feeling nervous about our status.

Of course, we must keep the issue of parades in perspective. The vast majority of Orange parades each year pass off peacefully - last year there were 2,356 Orange/Protestant parades and only 115 had any conditions imposed upon them. The organisers have to recognise that with the right to march comes responsibility. Saying that something is part of one's culture does not give anyone carte blanche to trample over others' sensitivities. Neither does the right to protest at marches.

Wise heads must prevail in the coming weeks and months. There must be no repeat of last year's violence, which would only damage our reputation and put unwarranted pressure on an overstretched PSNI.

Belfast Telegraph

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