Owen Paterson: “It is absolutely not an option to leave a [Parades Commission] hole.”

With the future of the DUP/Sinn Féin drafted Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests Bill currently uncertain the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, has told Parliament’s Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that if no new legislation was produced by the NI Assembly he will “reappoint a Parades Commission by January next year”.

The draft Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests Bill has already been consulted on and is due to go through the Northern Ireland Assembly this autumn.

It was drawn up following the report of the working group on parades set up following agreement on the devolution of policing and justice at Hillsborough.

Mr Paterson said he regretted the violence in Ardoyne which left 80 police injured in battles with suspected dissident republicans. One policewoman had a piece of masonry dropped on her head.

But the Northern Ireland Secretary added: “Most parades went off peacefully. Those organising must remember that there is this tiny (violent) number. Is it really worth it for those small number of parades to have that whole image of parading distorted on world television?

“I think the Parades Commission has done a good job, it took away the difficulty of embroiling the police in difficult decisions on routing, they have resolved the vast majority of contentious parades.

“It is absolutely not an option to leave a hole.”

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