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Plan for two-tier parades body could command wide support

The DUP and Sinn Fein seem to have discovered some common ground on the issue of parading and the future of the Parades Commission.

As the talks chaired by former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass near their final phase, parading, followed by the past, are emerging as the issues where progress is most likely.

Sources close to the discussions say that the DUP and Sinn Fein have submitted papers on resolving the parading impasses which share some common ground.

Both propose replacing the current Parades Commission with a two-tier structure. One tier would promote dialogue between residents or traders and parading organisations on the minority of parades which remain contentious.

The second tier would provide transparent adjudication where talks fail or time runs out.

Many talks participants feel that problems have arisen because a single body like the Parades Commission is responsible for both roles.

The DUP favours making an independent judicial figure responsible for crisis adjudication.

Since Rev Mervyn Gibson, the Orange Order's grand chaplain, is part of the DUP delegation, this method would have a good chance of acceptance with the loyal orders.

Sinn Fein currently prefers a panel of up to nine people to rule on disputed parades.

Six of these would make an initial ruling and the other three would be available to hear appeals. Sinn Fein also favours ideas like the posting of bonds or the taking out of insurance policies to pay for damage or other costs at parades where disorder is likely.

Such measures apply in Scotland where the 'Glasgow blueprint' has resulted in a fall in the cost of policing parades from a high of £582,000 in 2009 to £328,000 in 2011, a saving of 44%.

Revised parading proposals were presented to Dr Haass and Professor Meghan O'Sullivan, his co-chair, yesterday.

Parties will present fresh proposals on flags next.

So far unionists are insisting that the Union flag should be on constant display on Belfast City Hall and on designated days in other council headquarters.

Proposals on dealing with the past are due tomorrow and Saturday and there is some optimism after DUP leader Peter Robinson said he was prepared to discuss limited immunity provided it did not amount to an amnesty for Troubles-era offences.

Belfast Telegraph