Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Firm leadership needed to find the way forward

It is good news that Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson have decided to take the parading issue in hand.

Rightly or wrongly, there was a sense that when the cat’s away the mice will play over the summer. DUP politicians were a little more hardline and grandstanding than in recent years, and Sinn Fein’s famous discipline slipped.

Caral Ni Chuilin, raised in Carrick Hill, stated clearly that the residents didn’t want parades along Clifton Street halted, just conducted respectfully when they passed churches.

Paul Maskey, in West Belfast, seemed to be calling for the parade to be either banned or voluntarily relinquished.

Political drift is easily exploited by fringe elements. The UVF was in evidence during the most recent disorder in Clifton Street when loyalist mobs poured in from Denmark Street to oppose a dissident parade.

Water cannon came out and almost 50 police were injured.

The UVF has been recruiting young people. Many on both the Sinn Fein and loyalist side believe that the UVF is showing the authorities that its goodwill is needed if order is to be maintained.

Senior loyalists could be seen on the balcony of Clifton Street Orange hall filming proceedings, and the hall itself was attacked by nationalist rioters.

This poses a political and security challenge, but challenges are also opportunities. The loyal orders have so far shown poor leadership and have earned little respect outside their own followers.

If they can join Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness in finding a pathway out of this, a path agreed with nationalist and unionist residents, then we will have a template that can be applied elsewhere. And we will have reason to be grateful to the First and Deputy First Ministers for taking the situation in hand.

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