Taoiseach appeals for ‘calmer heads’ to prevent conflict over July 12th Orange Order march

SF leader says the number of parades in the North has gone from 2,120 to 4,600 in 10 years

Gerry Adams: pointed out that 10 years ago there were 2,120 marches held in the North while last year there were 4,637. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Gerry Adams: pointed out that 10 years ago there were 2,120 marches held in the North while last year there were 4,637. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Wed, Jul 9, 2014, 01:01

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has appealed for “calmer minds” to ensure there is no serious conflict this weekend during July 12th commemorations in Belfast.

Mr Kenny said the Government was in constant contact with the British government and the Northern Ireland parties. “I hope those involved will see to it that there is no escalation of violence or outrageous behaviour as has happened on a number of occasions,” he said.

Senior civil servants would travel to London this week to talk to counterparts, he added.

Mr Kenny was responding to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin who voiced grave concern about the “sense of drift” in respect for institutions in Northern Ireland.

Mr Martin described the withdrawal of leaders of unionism from talks about the past, flags and parades as “a sign of profound political failure”.

He said fundamental questions had to be asked when the First Minister and others left talks following the decision of a statutory parades commission, which banned a controversial Orange Order march from returning past Ardoyne shops in north Belfast on July 12th.

These included political recognition of the primacy of the rule of law “that leading politicians in Northern Ireland, irrespective of whether an adjudication comes from an independent institution or not, feel free on any whim to protest at that and remove themselves from a talks process”.

He said this was a problem not just with unionist politicians. He said a similar problem arose when Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams was arrested and “Sinn Féin said its support for policing was now questionable or could be threatened if he was not released”.

Mr Martin also asked if the Irish and British governments were looking again at the adjudication of parades given that the Haass talks indicated parading should move to the offices of the First and Deputy First Ministers to decide upon and away from an independent parades commission.

Mr Kenny said he noted the unionists announced a “graduated response, whatever is meant by that” following their withdrawal from the Parades Commission.

“This weekend has the potential for serious conflict. I hope that calmer minds will see to it that that does not happen.”

He said he had spoken to British prime minister David Cameron and asked him to consider speaking to the North’s First Minister.

Mr Adams pointed out that 10 years ago there were 2,120 marches held in the North while last year there were 4,637.

“Over 3,000 of these events are loyalist parades, while most of the remaining ones are religious or community based. There are fewer than 200 nationalist parades, none of which is contentious.”

He said claims that objections to Orange parades passing through in nationalist areas were an attack on Orange culture were clearly not right.