Tánaiste and Northern Secretary urge Orange Order to reconsider parade strategy
Gilmore and Villiers say order should talk to local nationalists
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore: “I think there is a responsibility on the Orange Order to think about taking people onto the streets in situations where the tensions are already very high.” Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
The Orange Order should reconsider its current strategy of making weekly applications to parade past the Ardoyne shops in north Belfast, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers have said.
Mr Gilmore and Ms Villiers expressed concern that Orange parades each Saturday up to police lines on the Woodvale Road some 300m short of the Ardoyne shops would add to the current tensions.
“I think there is a responsibility on the Orange Order to think about taking people onto the streets in situations where the tensions are already very high,” Mr Gilmore said today at Iveagh House in Dublin, where he held talks with Ms Villiers.
The Order made applications to the Parades Commission for parades by the shops for this Saturday and Saturday week.
A previous commission ruling banning three Orange lodges returning home past the shops resulted in serious rioting at Woodvale Road on the evening of July 21th and five consecutive days of violence in north and east Belfast, and other parts of Northern Ireland. More than 70 police officers were injured in the disturbances.
Last Saturday, following a second Orange application to complete the July 12th route, the lodges were again instructed by the commission to disperse at police lines on the Woodvale Road. That parade, which was well marshalled by Orange stewards, passed off peacefully.
The commission has again determined that the two latest parades should disperse at the junction of Woodvale Road and Woodvale Parade.
The current Orange strategy is similar to the situation at Drumcree, where each week it applies to parade on to the nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown and each week is instructed to disperse at Drumcree.
Ms Villiers said it was vital that all protests to be both peaceful and lawful.
“The Orange Order needs to reflect carefully on whether they should persist in calling for these parades to take place every Saturday. They did suspend their protests; they need to be very cautious because the situation remains tense,” she said.
“It is important that the Orange Order engage closely with the PSNI in relation to any protests that are to take place and make every effort to ensure they are properly stewarded,” she said. They must “ensure that everything possible is done to prevent them erupting in the kind of violence that we saw on the 12th of July”, added Ms Villiers.
She and Mr Gilmore urged the order to engage in direct dialogue with nationalist residents groups to resolve difficulties over parading.
“It is local engagement between parading organisations and residents’ groups which is the way forward in flashpoints such as the Ardoyne,” said Ms Villiers.
Mr Gilmore added: “I think it is important that there is discussion at a local level between the Orange Order and local communities on the issue of parades where there is likely to be some tension and some difficulties.
“Above all, it is important that the determinations of the Parades Commission are respected and the police are supported.”