'No deal in Dunloy for parades now or in the future'

THE likelihood of a Loyal Order parade ever taking place in Dunloy in the future is virtually non-existent despite the Hillsborough Agreement implementing new structures aimed at resolving the long-standing issue, a well-placed nationalist source in the village told the Times this week.

Dunloy and Rasharkin are two of the most contentious parades in the province and the issue of parading figured prominently during the talks process involving Sinn Fein and the DUP before the Agreement was sanctioned last week.

A new and supposedly improved framework involving all stakeholders and maximising cross-community support has been agreed by the parties and a co-chaired working group, set up by the First and Deputy First Minister, comprising six members, appointed by them, with experience of dealing with parading issues have been tasked with bringing forward agreed outcomes.

This work will begin immediately and will be completed within three weeks.

The way forward, according to the Agreement, is to give local people the chance to provide local solutions as well as having respect for the rights of those who parade, and respect for the rights of those who live in areas through which they seek to parade. This includes the right for everyone to be free from sectarian harassment;

• Recognising that at times there are competing rights;

• Transparency, openness and fairness;

• Independent decision making.

However, despite the best intentions of those behind the new model, our information is that there will be no softening of attitudes in Dunloy and that it is a case of 'no deal now or in the future.'

The issue, according to our source, has become too deep rooted in alleged mistrust, public utterances and actions in the past.

"The vast majority of people in Dunloy have gone 14 years without a parade. We held out the olive branch in the past and it was rejected. There's little stomach for compromise now," our source insisted.

He added: "Dunloy is 100 per cent nationalist and the days of Loyal Orders marching through at various times of the year has long gone. Another factor is that none of the Loyal Orders live or work here. They can sit down, stand up, or lie down, it won't make one bit of difference to our thinking.

"You could also say it has become personal. People here haven't forgotten how the Dunloy band paraded during the Chapel protests in Harryville, Ballymena. Whatever their intentions, nationalists took great exception to it.

"Every Sunday in this village, decent people come to their church, park on both sides of the road and no one says a thing to them. We would never dream of doing so.

"But the Loyal Orders parading here is an entirely different matter. Dunloy is NOT an open door nor will it be. We did talk to the Orangemen at one stage several years ago and agreed, in principle, a number of parades, but we felt we were let down afterwards by certain events and there's been nothing positive ever since.

Sinn Fein knows our position and has been told what the feeling is here on the ground."

Our source said he felt Rasharkin was a different matter.

"It's a case of people from the village belonging to one of the Loyal Orders. That being the case, I think there is some justification for them being permitted to parade, but only on the basis of proper negotiation and taking into account the attitude and feelings of the nationalist community."

The new framework says that where there is a need, support will be provided to help local communities and those who parade to find local solutions to contentious parades and related protests. This, it is said, will encourage local accommodation and will take account of lessons to be learnt from successful local models. It is envisaged that in the case of the most difficult situations, additional ongoing support will be provided to encourage resolution of contention.

The new body will promote and support direct dialogue with, and the involvement of, representatives of the Loyal Orders, band parade organisers, local residents' groups and other stakeholders, as this work is advanced. It will also encourage the participation of local elected representatives in the process of resolution.

The current adjudication mechanism of the Parades Commission will continue until the new improved arrangements are in place.

Parading - Timetable

Assumes maximum priority in Assembly at all stages.

FM/dFM appoint working group 8 February

Working group begins work 9 February

Working group completes work and reports on agreed outcomes to for the parades legislation late March/early April.