Sinn Féin and SDLP brief Taoiseach and Tánaiste on parade tensions

Unionists preparing next response to Parades Commission ban on return Orange march past Ardoyne shops

Sinn Féin and the SDLP have briefed Taoiseach Enda Kenny and new Tánaiste Joan Burton on the political and community tensions triggered by next Saturday evening's contentious north Belfast Orange Order parade.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell yesterday evening led senior party delegations in talks in Dublin with Mr Kenny and Ms Burton. Both leaders said it was now "essential" the British and Irish governments become directly involved in helping restore political stability.

“A strong position from both governments would send a clear message to those who are trying to derail the progress we have made,” said Mr Adams.

Dr McDonnell criticised the DUP and Ulster Unionist Party for withdrawing from multi-party talks on parades, flags and the past as part of its "graduated response" to the Parades Commission decision banning Orangemen from returning past the Ardoyne shops in north Belfast on the Twelfth of July.


"The situation in Northern Ireland has become volatile and, with threats of a 'graduated response' from unionism that will affect government and politics, could get worse," Dr McDonnell warned.

Also yesterday, senior Orange leaders, including grand master Edward Stevenson, visited the loyalist Camp Twaddell protest site in north Belfast to "show solidarity with the Ligoniel Orangemen" who last year and this year were barred from completing their return parade past the Ardoyne shops.

Meanwhile, the DUP says the next stage of the unionist-loyalist “graduated response” to the Parades Commission decision will be rolled out in the next 24-48 hours. Senior Orange leaders are due to meet tomorrow evening to discuss that response.

A united front comprising the DUP, the Ulster Unionist Party, the Traditional Unionist Voice, the Progressive Unionist Party, which is linked to the UVF, and the Ulster Political Research Group, which is linked to the UDA, is organising the staged protests.

Sinn Féin junior minister Jennifer McCann said a meeting she was due to have in Carrickfergus yesterday was cancelled due to a loyalist protest. She believed this was also part of the “graduated response”.

As well as last week walking out of the talks, First Minister Peter Robinson and Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt pulled their Ministers out of last Friday's scheduled North-South Ministerial Council meeting in Dublin. There was speculation DUP and UUP Ministers might also pull out of a meeting of the Northern Executive scheduled for today.

However, UUP Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy said that in addition to normal business, the Executive should today discuss Saturday's disputed parade, indicating a unionist expectation that the Executive meeting will take place.

Meanwhile, Mr Nesbitt has urged those responsible for placing election posters of Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson and Alliance MLA Anna Lo on bonfires to remove them immediately and to show respect for those of differing opinions.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times