DUP motion on Parades Commission decision carried

Peter Robinson said there was no excuse for anyone carrying out attempted murder on police officers

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MLAs have backed a DUP motion attacking the Parades Commission's decision to place restrictions on an Orange Order parade by the narrowest of margins.

The parade, in north Belfast, was followed by serious rioting. The motion was passed by one vote.

A Sinn Féin amendment supporting the decision and calling for talks between parade organisers and nationalist residents was defeated by three votes.

The Assembly was recalled for the debate.

The motion, which called the Parades Commission's decision to place restrictions on the parade in Ardoyne "illogical", was carried by 43 votes to 42.

The DUP motion called for respect for the law and for "tolerance to be shown for everyone's cultural identity".

Addressing MLAs, First Minister Peter Robinson called for the debate to be carried out in a "measured way" because of the "tension" and "volatility" of the situation.

He condemned the violence over the weekend and said those involved in attacking police officers should be in jail.

The first minister said the Parades Commission had got it "completely wrong" and said its decision had been made for "political reasons".

Mr Robinson said an all-party group had been set up with the "purpose of agreeing an alternative to the Parades Commission".

Engagement

He challenged the Orange Order to get involved in attempts to find an alternative to the Parades Commission.

He said they and everyone else should engage with the all-party group.

Mr Robinson said Dr Richard Haass, who will chair the talks, will arrive in Northern Ireland this week.

The all-party group will try to bring forward a set of recommendations by the end of this year on parades and protests, flags, symbols, emblems and other issues related to the past.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the Orange Order had been "badly damaged" and "badly led" over recent days.

He used the example of how the Orange Order had managed to reach accommodation in Londonderry.

Mr McGuinness said that while the Parades Commission was "responsible for the determination, it was not responsible" for the violence.

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly said he hoped the Orange Order was "open for talks".

He denied there was a republican war on unionist culture.

He said his party was "up for a shared future" and said he agreed with Mr Robinson that the Orange Order and residents and everyone else in society has to be part of it.

The SDLP assembly member for North Belfast, Alban Maginness, said it was "unhelpful" for the first minister to be so "blunt and critical" of the Parade Commission's decision.

He also called on the Orange Order and residents to re-engage in dialogue.

Mr Maginness said the parades issue had "blighted" north Belfast for "too long".

He said if it was not resolved it would come back next year to "haunt us".

Alliance MLA David Ford said his party supported Sinn Fein's amendment.

It was defeated by 44 votes to 41.

He described the scenes over the weekend as "disgraceful".

Mr Ford said he welcomed the comments made by Mr Robinson during the motion.

'Community relations'

He said there was a place in a shared future for "orange culture, green culture and gay culture".

DUP North Belfast MLA and Orangeman, Nelson McCausland, said the Parades Commission's ruling had "damaged community relations".

He called for the body to be abolished and for a "new start" to dealing with parades.

During the debate, William Humphrey claimed a Catholic statue thrown onto a loyalist bonfire last week had been done so by nationalists.

The DUP MLA said he was given the information by the person who returned the statue to a parish priest in Ardoyne.

The claim was angrily rejected by Sinn Fein and the SDLP and outside the chamber by the parish priest in Ardoyne, Fr Gary Donegan.

Also attending the debate was the UKIP MLA David McNarry, in spite of his having had a stent inserted into an artery during an operation on Monday.

In a statement, the Parades Commission said the assembly had been the "right place" for such a debate.

"It's imperative that all political leaders give clear and unequivocal support for the rule of law and the cessation of all street protests which have the potential for violence," the statement said.

"It is clear from some of today's contributions that the issues surrounding parading and protesting remain highly sensitive and divisive.

'Lasting solution'

"Nonetheless, the Parades Commission welcomes the positive and encouraging remarks about political representatives taking responsibility for dialogue and for challenging others to do the same."

"The commission looks forward to the input from Mr Haas and wishes him and the all-party group well in their endeavours to find a lasting solution to the remaining difficult and unresolved issues including parading throughout some parts of Northern Ireland."

The statement added: "In the meantime and in the absence of local engagement and resolution, the Parades Commission remains committed to making fair and balanced decisions in the interests of the wider community."

The Parades Commission published its determination, restricting the north Belfast parade, on Tuesday 9 July.

It ruled that the Orange Order could march past Ardoyne shops on the Crumlin Road on the morning of 12 July but could not use the same return route on Friday afternoon.

The stretch of the road at the shops separates loyalist and nationalist communities.

The DUP described the decision as rewarding riotous behaviour by dissident republicans.

In its motion, the party said attempts to build a shared future had been harmed by those unwilling to share space or respect cultural identity of others.

The assembly was last recalled on Monday 8 July to discuss allegations of political interference in the running of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

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