Irish minister calls for talks to resume

Published Wednesday, 30 July 2014
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The new Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has said he wants to see the all-party talks on flags, parades and the past to resume in September.

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The talks at Stormont came to a halt last month when the DUP and the UUP walked out over the Parades Commission decision to ban the return Orange Order parade from passing Ardoyne on the Twelfth.

Since then, they have called for a Commission of Inquiry to examine the issues around the controversial march.

Speaking during his first working visit to Northern Ireland since he was appointed to the new role, Minister Flanagan said he wanted to see the talks process recommence.

"I am concerned that the level of tension in July was such, albeit relieved that the major parades passed off without serious incident and I'd like to acknowledge the contribution of political leaders across the board in that regard," he said.

"I believe it's imperative that the all-party talks at leader level be reconvened at the earliest opportunity."

The Secretary of State has previously held separate meetings with unionists and Sinn Féin over the disputed parade.

Sinn Féin has expressed opposition to a Commission, stressing that the responsibility over parading lies with the Parades Commission.

On Wednesday morning a SDLP delegation which included MLAs Alban Maginness, Dolores Kelly and Alex Attwood, spoke with Ms Villiers on Wednesday.

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell told Ms Villiers that his party will not agree to a Commission of Inquiry into the disputed Ardoyne parade as it "would undermine local dialogue, the Parades Commission and the courts".

He said: "The unionist proposed Commission has the potential to send community relations back 15 years. The Parades Commission is the lawful and independent body tasked with making determinations on parading and while the SDLP might not always agree with those determinations we always accept them and always urge others to do so too.

"There is an urgency now for the resumption of all-party talks. A vacuum must not be allowed to develop. The SDLP have consistently said that the British and Irish governments must fully engage in the talks process and we repeated this message to the Secretary of State today."

Speaking to the media alongside Minister Flanagan at Stormont House, Ms Villiers acknowledged that a resolution to the dispute was needed.

"One thing that's come across from virtually everyone I've spoken to is that there is a need for something to be done to try and do more to bring people together to build mutual trust and understanding in north Belfast," she said.

"But certainly views are sharply divided about what that might be and what might be appropriate so I'll have further discussions, which I'll reflect on carefully, before making a decision on what if anything is to be set up."

© UTV News
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9 Comments
Jos in Belfast wrote (60 days ago):
@ john in armagh. Totally agree respect for everyone and recognition for both traditions who happened to end up in this part of the North East Ireland. Learn to live with each others traditions and that means respect for Unionist and Nationalist so two flags. Respect for where one wants to parade so as not to upset ones neighbours and a rememberance day for all who died in the troubles and all sides.
culchy in the stix wrote (60 days ago):
@ Jim in Carrickfergus, yes let's hand over our sovereignty to two foreign nations, that way we can have the worst of both worlds, the bedroom tax and cash up front health care.
Michael in Ireland in Belfast wrote (63 days ago):
Well jim in carrickfergus - same applies to the British conservative government ... How many MP'S or conservative in NI none !! Lol - pot black ???
will in Antrim wrote (63 days ago):
And the point would be!!!!!!
john in Co.Armagh wrote (63 days ago):
There will never be agreement on flags and he past, some people should engage there brain's, unionist traditions are not for sale at any price, if a shared space is something those who despise the loyal orders want, they should read dictionary and learn the meaning of the word respect.
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BRIAN ROWAN
Two comments, spoken tongue-in-cheek, nonetheless summed up the mood and the mire that is Stormont politics.
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