Orange Order should engage with Richard Haass’s new group on parading, says Robinson

Assembly narrowly supports DUP motion condemning Parades Commission

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Wed, Jul 17, 2013, 01:00

The Orange Order should engage with the new all-party Assembly committee chaired by former US envoy to Northern Ireland Richard Haass to try to find a resolution to parading disputes, the First Minister Peter Robinson has urged.

Mr Robinson made his call at a special sitting of the Northern Assembly yesterday which by the narrowest of margins endorsed a DUP motion deploring the Parades Commission decision to ban Orangemen from parading past the Ardoyne shops in north Belfast on the Twelfth of July evening.

The motion describing the commission’s determination as “illogical” was carried by 43 votes to 42 after a debate which considering the violence and high emotions of recent days, and notwithstanding some angry exchanges, could be described as reasonably constrained.

A Sinn Féin amendment supporting the commission, criticising the Orange Order and calling for dialogue between the loyal institutions and nationalist residents’ groups was defeated by 44 votes to 41. The two members of the new pro-union NI21 party supported the Sinn Féin amendment.

Chair of group
Mr Robinson disclosed that Dr Haass will arrive in Northern Ireland briefly this week to acquaint himself with the problems and that he wants no recompense for chairing the all-party group examining how the contentious issues of parading, emblems and the past might be addressed.

The First Minister said, “I put it to the Orange institution as I do to every party in this house: there is now an all-party group set up with the purpose of agreeing an alternative to the Parades Commission. Let’s see if we can get that alternative. Let everyone engage with Dr Haass and the all-party group.”

Mr Robinson condemned the recent violence: “I don’t think that anybody who takes a ceremonial sword to the head of a police officer can honestly find anywhere more suitable to be than in prison. There is no excuse for anybody carrying out what was an attempt to murder or seriously injure a police officer.”

Robinson query
Reflecting the views of most of the unionist contributors to the debate, Mr Robinson queried why the commission banned the return Orange parade past the Ardoyne shops even though in recent years, when Orangemen were permitted to parade at that flashpoint, the violence emanated from republicans at Ardoyne.

Sinn Féin and SDLP contributors majored on the argument that the way forward was for the Orange Order to talk to nationalist residents’ groups. The Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness praised the PSNI but said he was disappointed to see the effort by the Orange Order to confront the determination made by the commission.