The onus is now upon nationalism to show leadership and to respond positively to this genuine attempt to reach accommodation. They must face down the elements in their community who wish to drag Northern Ireland back.
So says DUP ‘leader’ Peter Robinson, but presumably not in reference to his party members who were advocating burning tricolours, defacing religious statues, indulging in murder fantasies, okay with assaults on the mayor or happy to be seen at UVF parades. Robinson was actually trying to take the lead in what the Orange Order are calling the Twaddell Initiative, an offer to hold talks with residents regarding future parades, but only if they (they being the bands and lodges that sang the Famine Song at Twaddell and rioted etc) are allowed to parade the contentious section of the route first (what would normally be called a precondition). So, not really so much of an initiative, more just a continuation of what they are doing with the hope of being rewarding for not observing the Parades Commission determination regarding the return parade.
Nigel Dodds, the North Belfast MP who sustained a head injury from a brick thrown by a loyalist protestor at Twaddell, for some reason imagines that:
The proposal takes into account the views put forward by nationalists and republicans many times concerning parades on the Crumlin Road. It is to be hoped therefore that this sincere and genuine initiative will be met by a demonstration of tolerance which will greatly improve inter-community relations in North Belfast.
And, just in case the Parades Commission don’t play along, he includes a guarded plea to the NIO and PSNI to roll out the ‘operational reasons’ trick card to force a parade through.
I urge the Secretary of State and the Chief Constable to use their full influence to ensure that this opportunity of resolving the current dispute about shared space on the Crumlin Road is not squandered.
Unsurprisingly, other unionists have welcomed the ‘Twaddell Initiative’. Mike Nesbitt has given his own take on yet another Unionist request to talks with preconditions.
The guarantee that dialogue for 2014 will follow immediately should residents endorse the resolution of this 2013 impasse is interesting and challenges the traditional narrative of unionist intransigence.
Meanwhile, PUP leader Billy Hutchinson has also strongly welcomed the announcement of the “Twaddell Initiative”
I hope that this initiative, which sets the context for proactive engagement, is received with the same positive intent and purpose as it was made.
Needless to say, no-one in Ardoyne appears remotely impressed. UTV are reporting North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly as saying:
The announcement by the Orange Order and unionist parties does not amount to an initiative. The setting of a precondition, that a parade past Ardoyne, Mountainview and the Dales, must take place before dialogue can commence, is not the way to progress this situation.
The Parades Commission will immediately note that, in it’s own determination this summer, section 9 points out that, despite assurances from the Unionists that they would engage in dialogue last year, this did not occur until six days before the July 2013 parade. The 2013 determination also included a ‘route map’ to resolve this issue, with section 11 noting that (a) the return parade would be restricted in 2013, (b) it would facilitate mediation from September 2013 onwards to resolve issues in advance of the 2014 parade and (c) it would look favourably upon the return parade in 2014 if these conditions were met.
So, more nonsense about parades coming up, less focus on social deprivation, joblessness, food poverty, educational disadvantage or any of the other issues that those protesting at Ardoyne should be more concerned about.