Northern Ireland

Commission defends parade determination

parades

The chairman of the Parades Commission has defended the decision to restrict a north Belfast Orange Order parade.

There were four nights of violence after the parade was banned from using a stretch of road separating loyalist and nationalist communities.

Peter Osborne said there was "no inevitability of violence from any determination or decision the Parades Commission makes".

He said the commission considers public disorder throughout the process.

"Responsibility for people that undertake violence lies with the people that lift the stone or lift the petrol bomb or do anything to endanger the lives of other people including police officers," Mr Osborne said.

Last week the Parades Commission 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.

"We've tried for years to get dialogue going and over the last 12 months, despite our best efforts, it was not possible to get that dialogue started again but that didn't happen until six days before the event."

Volatile

On Monday, the Orange Order grand chaplain Mervyn Gibson said: "It was clear from the Parades Commission determination that there was going to be violence.

"The anger was out there and people were itching to create violence as a protest against this, which was wrong."

In response, Mr Osborne said it was "irresponsible for civic leaders to use language that is inflammatory" or that would not help restore calm or resolve the situation.

"I think they (the Orange Order) need to reflect on what they have said and they need to reflect on the consequences of saying that," he said.

"People, including the Orange Order need to engage with us and residents.

"What we set out in the determination was a route map, after this year we want to get that dialogue restarted as early as September and then the commission next year would look at a parade in the evening," Mr Osborne added.

"In our eyes, this would be the best one to reach an agreement in one of the most contentious parades in Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland assembly has been recalled to debate the Parades Commission ruling on the Ardoyne parade.

Invidious

"I hope they can reach political agreement at Stormont and if they react it we will facilitate that as soon as possible," Mr Osborne said.

"Every civic leader political or otherwise needs to take the lead, politicians need to clearly support the rule of law, uphold the law and support the police."

Mr Osborne said the Parades Commission sought to work with people to find peaceful resolution.

"When agreement is not reached the commission is placed in the invidious position where one side of the community will be unhappy with the decision.

"These are sensitive and contentious issues in a volatile environment".

He said building trust is what worked for the recent parade in Londonderry.

"The flagship parade happened peacefully without any sensitivity or contention on a normal trading day," Mr Osborne said.

"The lesson is you talk, and as a result, in that city, the commission does not get involved and that is the best outcome for everybody."

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