Belfast Telegraph

Brazil trip off over parades fears

Northern Ireland's first minister has cancelled an investment trip to Brazil over fears of trouble during this summer's loyalist marching season.

Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness had been invited to the South American country by business leaders there.

July is the climax of the Orange Order's parading, which in the past has involved serious sectarian violence and injured scores of police officers.

The Democratic Unionist Party leader told the BBC: "I just think things are so serious that to be out of Northern Ireland at this time would be entirely wrong."

Riots have followed annual Twelfth of July loyal order demonstrations in north Belfast for many years.

Restrictions have in the past been imposed on a parade through a short stretch of road passing nationalist housing in Ardoyne but a heavy security presence has been necessary to enforce the separation of loyalists and republicans and keep the peace.

In past years dissident republicans opposed to the peace process have gathered at the sectarian flashpoint, hurling petrol bombs and other missiles at riot police.

Last year loyalist rioters targeted police during a number of nights of trouble, sparked when the Orange Order parade was banned from returning home from Twelfth commemorations past the Ardoyne.

A renewed bid for a political settlement between members of Northern Ireland's five parties to power-sharing is due to try to avert any repeat of past summers' tensions.

It comes six months after marathon sessions chaired by former US diplomat Richard Haass ended without agreement.

Last weekend Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams accused the DUP of failing to take a positive approach to talks which are due to focus on parades, the flying of the Union flag and others and the toxic legacy of conflict murders for victims and society.

Mr Robinson has said trust is in short supply.

Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness had been invited to visit Marfrig, the Brazilian parent company of Northern Ireland poultry producer Moy Park, next month.

Marfrig is one of the official sponsors of the World Cup, which runs until mid-July.

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said the talks should proceed immediately and urgently.

"Sinn Fein has made it clear for some time now that we are committed to this.

"The DUP is well aware that Sinn Fein has cleared 10 days between now and July 3rd to deal with all the issues of flags, parades and the past.

"It is essential that we put our own house in order so that we become a more attractive option for foreign investors. Therefore, the party leaders' talks are Sinn Fein's number one priority.

"If Peter Robinson is serious he should now seriously engage in dealing with these toxic issues."

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