Orange Order offer of talks with nationalists if given green light for north Belfast parade gets frosty reception
An Orange Order plan to resolve a bitter dispute over a controversial parade at a north Belfast interface has met with a cool reception from republicans.
The Order has notified the Parades Commission of its intention to stage a parade along the Crumlin Road this Saturday.
If the parade is given the go-ahead, Orange Order leaders say they will "immediately" engage with nationalist residents in Ardoyne in an effort to lay the foundations for a resolution ahead of next year's marching season.
Yesterday the Order said it was seeking a morning parade this time round – rather than the afternoon – in an attempt to resolve the long-running dispute.
First Minister Peter Robinson last night said the onus was now on nationalist leaders to "respond positively to this genuine attempt to reach accommodation".
"The act of sharing a main arterial route for a few minutes would boost community relations in north Belfast significantly and generate a positive atmosphere for the Haass process," he said.
But just hours after the plan was published, Joe Marley, a spokesman for the Crumlin Ardoyne Residents Association (Cara), said talks could have no preconditions.
"Cara believes the only way to resolve these issues is direct engagement and dialogue between local residents and local lodges. These talks should focus on the future and have no preconditions," he said.
Sinn Fein North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly said the proposal did not amount to an initiative.
"The setting of a precondition, that a parade past Ardoyne, Mountainview and the Dales, must take place before dialogue can commence, is not the way to progress this situation," he said.
The Order said the move has the support of those in the 'civil rights camp' at Twaddell Avenue which has been in place for more than two months. They will vacate the site should the parade take place, according to the Order.
Both Cara and Mr Kelly said that the removal of the camp would assist multi-party talks on parades being chaired by US diplomat Dr Richard Haass, and improve community relations.
The Order said the 'Twaddell Initiative' was an attempt on its part to contribute positively to the Haass talks. The planned parade features the three lodges from Ligoniel and two bands barred from marching along the stretch of road past the Ardoyne shops on their return from Twelfth of July celebrations.
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Violence erupted in the Woodvale area of north Belfast when Orangemen were stopped from marching past Ardoyne while returning from Twelfth demonstrations.
Since then, protest parades have taken place against the Parades Commission ruling every night and loyalists have set up a camp at Twaddell Avenue.