Fresh debate on future of parades body

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THE future of the Parades Commission will be debated this September following agreement between the First and Deputy First Ministers on renewed efforts to tackle the Ardoyne flashpoint.

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness will also consider closer engagement with north Belfast residents to help break the cycle of violence which explodes there every parading season.

This year police officers were injured when petrol bombs and other missiles were hurled by nationalists after a Twelfth parade passed through the area. Riot police lines were attacked using a flaming car and 10 shots were fired at police lines.

Mr Robinson said there had been some unacceptable and inexcusable scenes.

“In terms of the parading issue there will be a general recognition that the best way of dealing with this was not the Parades Commission and we work on with people connected to the residents and Orange institutions,” he said.

He claimed the Ulster Unionists were responsible for rejecting a proposed deal in 2010 on parading but said he did not share their “faith” in the Parades Commission.

The Orange Order narrowly rejected the new system for overseeing controversial parades, which was set up by a Stormont working group under the terms of the Hillsborough Agreement.

The plans would have seen the commission replaced by two new bodies encouraging rival sides to engage in dialogue.

Mr Robinson added: “We are willing to talk to anybody about them and to look at any suggestions as to how they [the proposals] can be improved.

“I discussed this with the Deputy First Minister this week and we agreed in September to attempt to see whether there is value in having an engagement on the wider issue of an alternative to the Parades Commission and also whether there is an advantage in engaging with people locally in Ardoyne.”

Other contentious parades in the province include the village of Rasharkin which is due to play host to Ballymaconnelly Flute band’s parade in mid-August.

Last year, the then Mayor, Councillor Ian Stevenson, went out on a limb and engaged with the Parish Priest in the village. The pair stood shoulder to shoulder during the parade which, many acknowledge, contributed to a peaceful evening.