Time to grasp olive branch of talks offer
The Orange Order appears to realise that its weekly protest parade in north Belfast is not the way to demonstrate its anger at being banned from marching past Ardoyne shops, or, more pertinently, to force a change of mind by the Parades Commission. Now there are encouraging signals that the Order wants to engage in meaningful talks with a wide range of people.
Not only is this the right thing to do, but it is also the smart thing to do, something the Order has been slow to come to terms with. As leading loyalist Winston Irvine points out, an offer of talks places the ball in the court of republicans who say they would welcome debate on a shared future. Instead of them simply claiming the moral high ground by saying they want to talk but Orangemen don't, they will have to back up their claims with action.
It is also encouraging that the Order says it wants to talk to Catholic Bishop Noel Treanor over the controversy involving parades and the behaviour of bands outside St Patrick's church in Donegall Street, Belfast.
While the Order is also to take part in the talks being held by US diplomat Richard Haass, a resolution of contentious marches can most easily be achieved through discussions between the Order and nationalist residents.
This, traditionally, is a tense period of the year and the sectarian attack during the weekend on homes and cars in the loyalist Suffolk area of west Belfast could have had more serious consequences. Such attacks and heightened security create a bad image of the new Northern Ireland
Is it too much to hope that there is a growing maturity among both communities that will allow them to debate, and maybe even resolve, their differences through discussion instead of enduring this annual stand-off?