Belfast Telegraph

Parade decision 'must be respected'

The Parades Commission's controversial decision to ban a return parade by the Orange Order must be respected, Theresa Villiers has told the Commons.

The Northern Ireland Secretary's comments came after Nigel Dodds called for the commission to be scrapped.

Speaking during Northern Ireland Questions, the deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party described the ruling as "perverse".

Turning to Ms Villiers, Mr Dodds said: "You will be aware of the perverse decision that was made last night by the Parades Commission, which rewarded bad behaviour and has punished good behaviour in relation to parading. What are you going to do about it?"

Ms Villiers said she was working closely with all parties concerned to ensure a "peaceful 12th of July". She added: "I believe that it is important for all of us, both in this House and the Northern Ireland political parties, to call on all concerned to work towards a peaceful 12th of July. It would be hugely damaging to Northern Ireland if the good news of the G8 were blighted by scenes of rioting on the streets of north Belfast."

Mr Dodds replied: "We want to see that peaceful situation continue, we don't want to see any rioting on our streets. Do you accept that the Parades Commission has made the situation immensely worse, has created severe tensions because the republicans who brought machine guns out and attacked the police last year and shot at them, whilst loyalist and unionists behaved impeccably, republicans have been rewarded throughout, unionists have been punished? How on earth do you expect people to react in that situation?"

He added: "Isn't it time for that Parades Commission to go and to be replaced by something more sensible?"

Ms Villiers, however, insisted their decision was final. She said: "Well, I know that the member for North Belfast has strong views on these matters and the fact that these events relate directly to his constituency give him an important say on this. I recognise the anger in parts of the loyalist community in this decision, but it is vital that people recognise the Parades Commission is a lawfully constituted authority; respect for the rule of law is crucial."

She added: "It would be immensely damaging to Northern Ireland if we had a violent 12th of July. So whatever people think of the Parades Commission determination, I hope they will listen to the statement made by all five party leaders yesterday on the importance of the rule of law, and a peaceful 12th of July and complying with the Parade Commission's determination."

The commission has ruled that Orangemen can walk on the stretch of the Crumlin Road - in the nationalist Ardoyne area - in the morning, but not in the evening.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph