Disarray about dialogue

Republicans seem to have gotten themselves in a state of disarray about parades dialogue in North Belfast.The Shankill Mirror carries a report outlining the confused position of Ardoyne republicans towards parades dialogue. Last year, extensive talks took place between Unionists and a group called the Ardoyne Parades Dialogue Group. This resulted in an agreement how to manage the Tour of the North parade in June. This agreement fell apart when republican youths attacked parade participants and residents going home to Ballysillan. Dialogue ceased and Unionists asked who could negotiate and deliver for Ardoyne?

In August 2005, local Sinn Fein councillor Margaret McClenaghan gave a partial answer in a Radio Ulster interview when she said the Ardoyne Parades Dialogue Group did not speak on behalf of the Ardoyne community despite this group including a number of prominent community activists and republicans.

In September 2005, the Parades Commission asked the local Apprentice Boys Club would they re-commence dialogue about Crumlin Road parades? They said yes if Sinn Fein and the Dialogue Group would clarify who speaks for Ardoyne. A statement was promised but nothing happened.

With this backdrop, the Parades Commission allowed an Apprentice Boys Easter parade on the Crumlin Road this Monday. Yet Gerry Kelly claimed no effort had been made to talk to residents. The meetings in the previous years and the fresh offer of dialogue must have slipped his mind. This is not the first time Sinn Fein have got themselves in a twist about dialogue. Alex Maskey said no Orangemen had been involved in dialogue about the Whiterock parade only for BBC Newsline to reveal that the local District Master had attended the meetings.

The confusion reached its zenith last week when the Parades Commission told the North and West Belfast Parades Forum it wanted to see dialogue re-commencing and nominated to represent Ardoyne were the ‘unrepresentative’ Ardoyne Parades Dialogue Group. Huh!?!