Published Thursday, 06 September 2012
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Police Chief at Stormont
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Matt Baggott was speaking at a meeting of the Policing Board on Thursday following three nights of violence in north Belfast, which started when a republican parade passed close to Carlisle Circus on Sunday.
Unionists had called for the commission to be scrapped after it placed restrictions on bands taking part in a Royal Black Institution parade in August. But the ruling was ignored and loyalist bands played music outside St Patrick's Church on Donegall Street.
Although the disorder in the Carlisle Circus area has faded, there are fears the situation could reignite later this month, when the Ulster Covenant Centenary parade is expected through north Belfast.
"Please continue to do everything possible to reduce tension and encourage dialogue," said the Chief Constable.
I would hope that the 29th is resolved locally without the involvement of the Parades Commission. Please respect the rule of law even if the determinations are controversial.
Jonathan Craig, a DUP member of the Policing Board, joined in the condemnation of violence, and added it is critical that a resolution to the parading issue is found.
"We can't have another summer of this, we can't have more officers injured continually trying to separate communities within Northern Ireland.
"The Parades Commission is an outdated, outmoded organisation," he said.
It was the first meeting of the Policing Board since the disorder at Carlisle Circus, during which more than 60 officers were injured.
Mr Baggott described the events as a "setback for the reputation of Northern Ireland", but commended the officers who stood on the front line and the "world class professionalism in their actions of peace-keeping".
"The cost has been police injuries, a diversion of resources from improving lives and helping our most vulnerable, fear and damage to Northern Ireland's reputation. A shadow was cast over very positive progress," he added.
Board Chair Brian Rea said the violence directed at police officers was unjustified and unjustifiable.
Such violence has wider implications and costs for us all. As a society we must work collectively to address the issues that are causing the tensions and disorder.
The Policing Board was told a 32-strong police team is investigating events on the streets in north Belfast.
"We have been assured by the Chief Constable that there will be robust follow up and arrest of those responsible and for any related unlawful activity," said Mr Rea.
"Police are dealing with the symptoms, there needs to be resolution of the causes and the Board welcomes the initiative now being taken by the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister," he added.
Mr Baggott said those in leadership must "turn this step back into many steps forward".
"Today I am very encouraged by the urgency and positive signs that people are willing to give ground, compromise and seek out reconciliation."
A spokesperson for the Parades Commission welcomed the "increased focus and renewed determination to improve the atmosphere surrounding parading in north Belfast".
"We wish the process well and it is our hope that given time and space these efforts will make progress on what are difficult issues."