The resurfacing of the parades issue has caught many by surprise, nationalist and unionist. The sense of stability that had slowly crept into our summers has, all of a sudden, given way to a range of attitudes from exasperation to anger as many nationalists in particular ponder a return to the dark Drumcree era.
That unionist politicians would seek to use the Derry solution as an example of how things should be is unsurprising; there, in an act without reciprocation by towns with a reverse demographic profile, nationalists have largely supported the expression of the unionist marching tradition in the overwhelmingly majority nationalist city.
But in terms of providing long-term resolutions, it is not Derry but other areas we should be looking to for model solutions to the marching dispute. It was not long ago that Loyal Order members marching through the nationalist Lower Ormeau were compared to cannibals after using the parading occasion to gloat over the killing of five catholics in a bookmakers they processed past in a less than dignified manner.
That period is now, thankfully, behind us as a rerouted parade veering around the district has now become part of the much vaunted orange tradition. Similarly, the age of the RUC forcing Orangemen through the Clifton Park Avenue interface and along the Cliftonville and Antrim Roads has long past into memory- even though Orange feet were forced through that area less than fifteen years ago.
As a consequence, two flashpoint communities are spared an annual event which polarised communities and precipitated serious violence.
There is, of course, another way to resolve the parading discussion, as Ive articulated here. If political unionism is serious about discussing how we create a culture of mutual tolerance towards hosting the expression of the other communities culture, then that is a discussion which will involve unionism taking many deep, deep breaths if events in Coleraine and Banbridge last year are anything to go by- not to mention Portadown, where loyalists protesting outside a catholic-owned premises in the town centre gave a depressing but appropriate indication of where lies the notion of unionist tolerance towards any potential for outwardly political expressions of the minority nationalist tradition in unionist areas of that troubled town.
In many ways, unionism has scored a success to date in having the parameters for discussion with regard to parading revolving around a talking and walking culture which asks no questions of unionist communities. Nationalist political leaders would now appear to have the opportunity to broaden the discussion to ask those very questions and potentially transform the discussion around parading in a manner that could unlock the door to finally dealing with the vexed question of parading in a decisive way which, ultimately, could bring us as a society closer to dealing with such disputes the ‘Derry’ way, presuming a culture of reciprocity was by then the order of the day.