SoS 'worried' about Ardoyne tensions

Published Wednesday, 25 June 2014
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The Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has told UTV that she is worried about tensions over the unresolved parading issue affecting Ardoyne, in north Belfast.

Last July, three Ligoniel lodges were refused permission to march past the Ardoyne shop fronts as part of their return parade for the annual Twelfth marches.

Since that decision, members of the Orange Order and its supporters have held a permanent protest at Twaddell Avenue over the decision.

They have also held weekly parades and nightly demonstrations in the area. Policing the protests has cost millions of pounds.

Speaking on Ardoyne, the Conservative politician said: "That situation worries me, it is extremely difficult having a protest camp near a very volatile interface.

"I have had many discussions with the people affected, both representatives of the protesters, of the Loyal Orders and also residents and local politicians, I would encourage everyone involved to keep up a local dialogue, that is the best way to try and dissipate tension.

"Of course that is the best way to try and resolve the dispute about the parades."

Ms Villiers has urged all sides to accept the decision of the Parades Commission regarding this year's parade.

She continued: "The crucial thing is that whatever their determination is that it is respected.

"Whether people agree with that determination or not and the reality is whatever they decide there is going to be controversy, there is going to be risk, there is going to be difficulty - but it is crucial that that determination is obeyed and the rule of law is upheld and that we do all we can to try and avoid the kind of scenes that have blighted the Twelfth of July for so many years."

When asked about next week's intensive talks, she replied: "I think it is important that the party leaders stick with this process, I mean we all know that they are very difficult and divisive issues it was always going to be very tough to find an agreed way forward across the political spectrum but there is an opportunity here.

"The talks process under Dr Haass did seem to generate quite a bit of common ground between the parties. I think now is the time to really put the shoulder to the wheel and carry on an intensive process to try and find a way forward on these issues."

She added that it was "really important" that every effort is made to use the period before the Twelfth of July before the Assembly goes into recess to try and make some progress.

"Yes, everybody acknowledges the difficulty but I think the key thing is that the party leaders stick at it, keep working at it and use these next few weeks as intensively and productively as possible."

Hailing the Queen's visit this week as a success, she said the monarch has played "a really strong role in promoting reconciliation and working together."

© UTV News
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9 Comments
Dorothy in Kansas wrote (146 days ago):
To me, Theresa Villiers seems semi-detached. Is that her style or is it government policy?
Joe in Co Down wrote (146 days ago):
It would not be allowed in any other country move this camp on for peace sake Mrs Villiers.
Jos in Belfast wrote (146 days ago):
Move on this camp and give people living there some peace.
Michael in Templepatrick wrote (147 days ago):
Ms Villiers if it is extremely difficult having a protest camp near a very volatile interface then shut the thing down and move the people along. Simple.
Vee in Belfast wrote (148 days ago):
Isn't it a wee bit late in the day to start negotiations about this? What has happened to the last 11 months since the last 12 July? Still better late than never.
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