Parades Commission defends Ardoyne decision

Wednesday 10 July 2013 19.53
Residents are opposed to the march
Residents are opposed to the march

The Parades Commission Chairman has defended the decision to ban the Orange Order from marching on a stretch of road in the mainly Catholic Ardoyne district of north Belfast on the return leg of a 12 July march.

Speaking on RTÉ's News At One, Peter Osborne said the decision  was taken after dialogue had failed to achieve a resolution agreeable to both the Orange Order and local residents.

Mr Osborne said: "It's a decision that affects about 300 yards of road, on the Crumlin road, on a day when there's ten to 12 miles paraded by the loyal orders.

"It's not a decision that we took easily or lightly. There was a huge amount of consultation involved.

"At the core of the decision was an attempt to be fair and balanced in terms of the parade.

"Ultimately we had to take this decision as dialogue had not worked in advance of the parade."

He said that the commission was open to dialogue on the issue and hoped that the route could be opened fully in time for next year's parade if talks with the Orange Order and residents' associations were successful in coming months.

"If you look at parading in general here, there has been significant progress made all over Northern Ireland," he said.

However, he said parades in north Belfast continue to be a problem.

He said one recent small parade in north Belfast with around 100 protesters required 300 police officers and he said this was not sustainable.

He said politicians, residents and the Orange Order needed to "step up to the plate" to address the issue.

The PSNI is drafting in an extra 630 police officers from forces across the UK to help keep the peace on the streets over the next few days.

Elsewhere, a DUP MP was suspended from the House of Commons today amid mounting unionist anger over the decision to ban the parade.

Democratic Unionist Nigel Dodds was ordered to leave the chamber after he accused Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers of giving a "deliberately deceptive" answer about the event.

The action against Mr Dodds by Commons Speaker John Bercow was taken after he refused three times to withdraw the claim he made about Ms Villiers in a point of order.

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