Northern Ireland

Stormont parties in joint statement for Twelfth calm

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Media captionThe issue of parades in Northern Ireland was being discussed at Stormont

The five Stormont executive parties have issued a joint statement appealing for calm over 12 July.

It follows a discussion about the parades situation in north Belfast at an executive meeting on Tuesday.

The statement said that "all parades and parades-related protests should be lawful".

It added: "The executive acknowledges the efforts of many to ensure a peaceful summer."

Ulster Unionists had formally requested that a Parades Commission's ruling on the Orange parade should be discussed at the meeting.

But nationalists said decisions on individual parades and protests should be a matter for the commission rather than executive ministers.

The commission barred a 12 July Orange Order parade from returning along part of the Crumlin Road in north Belfast.

As a result, unionist parties pulled out of talks on parades, flags and the past.


Stormont Executive ministers also discussed financial matters relating to individual departments' budgets and European Union funding during the meeting.

Afterwards, Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson, DUP, said: "We want to see a peaceful period of time over the next number of weeks, everyone should respect the law."

He added: "I made it very clear at the meeting that the only way forward in terms of parades is that they take place in a dignified and respectful way and they are met with understanding and tolerance from those in the surrounding areas.

"That will only be possible if we can get this society to accept that there must be permission given to those that want to express their culture without any hindrance."

Sinn Féin minister John O'Dowd said: "There was a sensible discussion at the executive meeting around the issues of the parading season.

"The executive has agreed a joint statement calling for all parades and related protests to remain lawful.

"Clearly this must include the acceptance of the lawful decisions of the Parades' Commission."

Alliance leader David Ford said the executive meeting had been "more positive" than some he had attended.

"I take heart from the fact that there appears to be a measure of agreement," he said.

"But what will be key is to ensure that it carries through on the ground and that people use their influence as best they can to avoid any prospect of violence happening in any part of Northern Ireland."

Ulster Unionist minister Danny Kennedy said that the meeting represented "progress from the positions outlined earlier by some political parties".

No resolution

Mr Kennedy had given advance notice that he wanted to raise the Ardoyne marching decision under any other business.

Sinn Féin said unionists could raise whatever issues they wish, but the 12 July parade would not be resolved at the executive meeting.

On Sunday, Drew Nelson, the grand secretary of the Orange Order, said he expected "reaction" from the unionist and loyalist family to the Parades Commission decision to continue for some time and to "spread into the sphere of politics and governance".

The Grand Lodge of Ireland is due to hold an emergency meeting later this week to discuss the ruling.

Last week, the commission ruled that the outward leg of the parade could proceed along the road.

However, it said that only hymn music could be played by bands.

The road separates unionist and nationalist communities in north Belfast and it is the second year in a row that the commission has ruled against the return leg of the 12 July parade marching along the route.

The north Belfast group, the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (Garc), said it had called off plans for a protest against the parade on 12 July.

Loyalists have maintained a continuous presence at a protest camp at the Woodvale/Ardoyne interface at Twaddell Avenue since last July.

A North South Ministerial Council meeting that had been due to be held in Dublin on Friday was postponed following Thursday's developments.

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