It's not just about parading

Published Friday, 20 June 2014
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The talk is the Parades Commission is already feeling some of the summer heat - and the high pressure of decision making.

It's that time of the year again and, in just a few days from now, deliberations will begin on the 12th July march application in north Belfast.

The focus again is on that stretch of road running from Woodvale, past Ardoyne and up the Crumlin Road.

And it is about much more than a parade - but a decision that will play into both politics and policing.

Last year's march was blocked on its return journey and has not been completed since.

And, now, the calendar is marching in quick step towards another Twelfth and another determination.

In what was meant to be below the radar, a senior unionist delegation met the Commission earlier this week.

Peter Robinson was there, Mike Nesbitt, Jim Allister and the PUP and UPRG were also represented.

The meeting has been described as both "robust" and "intense" - adding to the pressure.

And we can expect similar type of conversations to play out over the next days and weeks.

That year-long standoff in a corner of north Belfast is playing into the bigger political picture and eating large chunks of the policing budget.

There is no indication that a local agreement is possible.

Background talks involving clergy, politicians, community representatives and the local lodges were recently postponed.

And, with not long to go, the door is closing, if not closed, on their potential to deliver a compromise.

Sinn Féin, the SDLP, one of the local residents groups - CARA - and the Catholic Bishop Donal McKeown have been involved in the background talks with a delegation from the PUL (Protestant, Unionist, Loyalist) community.

But another of the residents groups - GARC - has not been part of the talks.

They should be, but as one voice, and not in some final say capacity.

This dialogue, if it is to get anywhere, needs everyone in the room - all sides and every side of this argument.

In the meantime, the talks at a higher political level remain stuck in the mud.

Intensive talks have been signalled but not yet begun.

"There's no appetite to go in there and do a deal even on parades without an arrangement around Ardoyne," a senior unionist politician commented.

And so marching and politics walks on the spot and policing is stuck on that same spot - needing big numbers just to hold the different lines on that north Belfast interface.

The type of compromise nationalists might consider is around morning parades - with maybe one last early morning march up the Crumlin Road to complete last year's 12 July walk.

That's different from what the PUL delegation has been arguing for - their position that the road should be clear not just for the 12 July return but for other marches.

And, so, as we move towards the peak of another marching season, this place continues to walk in different directions.

Up to this point, the talking has changed nothing.

And, so, another decision will have to be made by the Parades Commission - a decision with much wider implications.

It's not just about parading - but politics and policing.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
john in downpatrick wrote (221 days ago):
I wish every last parade in this place was banned, the bigots sicken me.
S.B. in Belfast wrote (224 days ago):
I said at the time of the Holy Cross dispute that we wouldn't really see the effects of it until years later when many of the children involved grew up. I now firmly believe that we are living with the legacy of Holy Cross 13 years on in North Belfast. It poisoned the minds of many adults and kids and it still affects the area to this day. There is an awful lot of anger and bitterness within the Ardoyne community about what went on and it has definately hardened opinion there towards these Orange parades and Unionism/Loyalism is general. After the violence, mayhem and anarchy of the past 18 months how could the Parades Commission now back down and allow another return Woodvale parade? It would be seen by Nationalists, and I also imagine by many police officers who took the brunt, as a total surrender and capitulation to those elements within Unionism/Loyalism and Loyal Orders who have defied every Parades Commission determination and broken many laws on Woodvale/Twaddell since last July. Furthermore those Unionists who shout loud and often about "not negotiating with terrorists" or who won't contemplate talking to Catholic residents never have any problem sitting in the same room or standing on the same platform with the representatives of the UDA and UVF. What utter, nauseating hypocrisy of the worst kind. I fear a U turn by the Parades Commission and the sight of Catholics once again being beaten off the streets to allow Loyalists to strut through Ardoyne would further inflame an extremely volatile situation in North Belfast to a very serious degree that could eventually spiral out of control.
Concerned Ulster Citizen in Banbridge wrote (224 days ago):
The Parades Commission has failed. Most decisions have capitulated to republican violence, and nationalist politicians threats of walking away from policing. Threat can not win nor the belief that a 'God given right' to march must be upheld. Marchers were stopped last year at Twaddell Avenue - protesters won. Allow the marchers through this year and block the protesters! Equality??? Not in a make shift judged Northern Ireland!!!!
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Brian Rowan
Brian Rowan

Brian Rowan is a journalist, author and broadcaster who has reported on the major peace process developments - from ceasefires to political agreements.

Four times he has been a category winner in the Northern Ireland Journalist of the Year awards.

He is the author of four books and a regular commentator on UTV.

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