The Parades Commission heard today [ie yesterday] from representatives of the North and West Belfast Parades Forum (NWBPF) and the Ardoyne Parades Dialogue Group (APDG) regarding the outcome of the discussions, which were facilitated by the Commission, which have been taking place around parades in north Belfast. A joint delegation from the APDG and the NWBPF met the Commission this morning.
Following the meeting Parades Commission Chairman Roger Poole said:
“The Commission is pleased to note the progress which has been made in these discussions and the emergence of an accommodation between the two sides in respect of the feeder parades associated with the ‘Tour of the North’ this weekend. We acknowledge that the discussions are at a very early stage and that the whole question of parades in north Belfast requires a long term and sustainable solution. Both sides in the area have committed their organizations to a prolonged process of dialogue which will continue into this summer and beyond. That is a significant commitment which the Commission welcomes.
“The communities on both sides deserve a huge amount of credit for the way in which they have approached this very sensitive matter. They have brought to the discussions a degree of respect, trust and a willingness to resolve these issues in a way which benefits the entire community. While the developments are very welcome I want to emphasize that they are the first steps on a long road. What has been agreed in advance of Friday is the beginning of a process rather than a conclusion.
“I have been told since I arrived in Northern Ireland to chair the Commission that people on the ground want to resolve these matters. The efforts of all concerned in this dialogue demonstrate that fact very clearly. I have also been told that the Tour of the North Parade often sets the tone for the remainder of the marching season, especially in Belfast. The Ardoyne Parades Dialogue Group and the North & West Belfast Parades Forum have demonstrated that accommodation can be reached without the surrender of valued principles. Hopefully that lesson can be taken on board across Belfast and across Northern Ireland.
“This Commission will continue to promote and facilitate dialogue and accommodation wherever there are issues of disputes around parades in Northern Ireland.”
The Parades Commission has decided, at the request of both sides, that it will not issue a determination with respect of feeder parades along the Crumlin Road on Friday 16th June.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty