Northern Ireland

North Belfast riot talks positive: Robinson and McGuinness

DUP talks delegation
Image caption First Minister Peter Robinson with DUP North Belfast representatives William Humphrey, Nigel Dodds and Nelson McCausland

Northern Ireland's first and deputy first ministers have described talks about contentious parades in north Belfast as "positive and constructive".

They met north Belfast politicians to discuss the ongoing tensions in the area. An Orange Order delegation met privately with Peter Robinson.

Three nights of trouble started on Sunday after a republican parade close to Carlisle Circus.

More than 60 police officers have been injured during the disturbances.

In a statement, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness said: "We are very encouraged by the determination of all those who attended today's meeting to work together to agree a way forward. All agreed that there is no place for violence.

"There is a recognition that all the interested parties, not just politicians, have a role to play in the parades issue.

"We will be chairing a further series of meetings in the coming days with the aim of reaching a successful resolution ahead of the (loyalist) march on 29 September.

"Beyond that we will be resuming efforts to find an agreed approach to dealing with all contentious parades."

It is understood Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness will meet with Chief Constable Matt Baggott on Thursday.

On 29 September, there will be a loyalist parade to mark the 100th anniversary of the Ulster Covenant.

The police have said politicians must sort out the situation, politicians have said they are doing all they can.

After Wednesday's Talks Mr Robinson said: "I have also had contact with the Orange Institution.

"I was greatly encouraged by the views that were expressed during the course of that meeting."

Earlier Deputy First Minister Mr McGuinness blamed "a terrible display of bigotry and sectarianism" for the recent violence in north Belfast.

He warned those involved were "sowing the seeds of further conflict".

"People need to abide by the rule of law," he said.

"The Parades Commission is a lawfully instituted organisation that was put there because of the difficulties that existed with contentious parades in different parts of the north.

"If people are not prepared to abide by those determinations, then what they're effectively doing is sowing the seeds of further conflict within our society and I think they're making a big mistake."

He added that politicians had to show leadership to try to resolve the issues causing the trouble.

"If you're in a position of political leadership, you actually have to lead - that means leading from the front, not leading from behind," he said.

Mr Robinson condemned those involved in the violence.

He said proposals the DUP and Sinn Fein put forward two years ago held the key to a new era of parading.

'Step back'

He had faced criticism for failing to make a public statement in response to the violence.

"There are undoubtedly very high tensions in north Belfast and indeed in other parts of the province," he said.

"My role is to ensure that we don't add to those difficulties by things that are said and done.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionPeter Robinson: "The issues will only be resolved on the basis of there being mutual respect"

"Perhaps if everybody took a step back and said a lot less we might be in a lot better position to resolve some of these issues.

"But they will only be resolved on the basis of there being mutual respect; respect for the rights of people to parade and respect from those who are parading for the communities in which they are parading."

He said people could make their own judgements about engaging in civil disobedience, but it should always be an alternative to violence not something that leads to violence.

Mr Robinson said he wanted to see the end of the Parades Commission.

He was, however, encouraged to hear that residents of the Catholic Carrick Hill area did not want to see parades rerouted and banned.

On Wednesday evening members of the clergy took part in a prayer vigil at Carlisle Circus.

They appealed for calm.

Meanwhile, a 15-year-old boy has been charged with rioting over trouble on Tuesday night.

He is due to appear at Belfast Juvenile Court on Thursday. Two men aged 18, two aged 23 and one aged 19 have been released on bail pending further enquiries.

More on this story