Robinson calls for commission of inquiry to address parading
Orangemen to stage series of protests on Saturday over banning of Ardoyne route
Northern Ireland First Minister Robinson today with Orange, unionist and loyalist leaders addressing a meeting today at Ballymacarrett Orange hall in east Belfast. Photograph: Gerry Moriarty/The Irish Times
Orange, unionist and loyalist leaders have called on the Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers to hold a commission of inquiry into Saturday’s disputed Orange Order parades in the North and into the wider issue of parading.
A series of protests in support of the Orangemen barred from making their return parade past the Ardoyne shops on Saturday evening was also announced today by Orange Order and unionist party leaders and by loyalist representatives.
First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson said that the combined unionist, loyalist approach to Saturday’s contentious parade “enhanced” the prospects of a peaceful Twelfth of July.
Mr Robinson today joined Orange, unionist and loyalist leaders such as the institution’s grand master Edward Stevenson, UUP leader Mike Nesbitt and Progressive Unionist Party leader Billy Hutchinson in calling for peace and calm over the Twelfth and in supporting north Belfast Orangemen.
The pledge was signed at Ballymacarrett Orange hall in east Belfast. It read, “We pledge our support for the campaign that challenges the injustices of the Parades Commission and combats the demonisation of our culture, as manifested in our parading tradition and expressions of British identity.”
Mr Robinson, in calling for the commission of inquiry, said this move was part of the “graduated response” to the Parades Commission decision barring Ligoniel Orange lodges from passing by the Ardoyne shops on Saturday evening.
He said further elements of this response would be announced in the weeks and months ahead. He also indicated that if the response from Ms Villiers was unsatisfactory that the protests could have a bearing on politics at local, Assembly, Westminster and European level.
Mr Robinson said: “The combined unionist parties call upon the Secretary of State to establish a time-bound commission of inquiry with the necessary legal powers and resources to examine the Crumlin Road parades impasse and the wider issues it represents.”
“This is a further part of our graduated response strategy, and follows on from our withdrawal from the leaders’ talks, ending contact with the so-called Parades Commission and the steps outlined by the Orange institution,” he added.
“In addition, the parties are agreed that at every level - council, assembly, Westminster and Europe - the denial of cultural expression, resulting from republican violence and threats of violence, will have a consequence determining how our members at each of these levels of government will participate,” said Mr Robinson.
Orange grand master Mr Stevenson said there was “unanimous backing” within the “unionist family” for the “graduated response” series of protests “against the ongoing threats of republican violence and the intolerance of those who seek to curtail expressions of our British identity and parading tradition”.
Mr Stevenson said that each of the Order’s main parades on Saturday will stop for six minutes, “the length of time it takes the Ligoniel parade to walk past the Crumlin Road”. During those stoppages a statement will be read outlining the Orange objection to the Parades Commission.
On Saturday evening, he added, a series of “protest parades will take place around the province - however, these will not be in contentious areas”.
All the Orange, unionist and loyalist leaders urged a calm and peaceful Twelfth. “The unionist people will be unforgiving of anyone who seeks to destroy the cooperation we display today,” said Mr Stevenson.