Ten months on from the beginning of the flag protests, it looks like DUP is finally applying foresight and making its position clear in advance of potential trouble.
Addressing the Orange Order’s plans to “up-scale [protests] right up to civil disobedience if that’s what it takes”, Arlene Foster told BBC NI’s Sunday Politics show:
We very much defend the right of people to protest on any issue. But what must happen, and I do make this very clear, is that people must remain within the law of the land when they engage in protest. Some people, during the flags protest, went out to protest and things went further than they should have gone and therefore those young people now have a criminal conviction. I do not want to see young people, whether in Belfast or anywhere else in Northern Ireland, blighted with a criminal conviction for something that they will regret for the rest of their lives.
Today, Nelson McCausland
clarified his understanding of what fellow Orangeman William Mawhinney meant in his statement – delivered while standing on the same platform as Nelson – on Saturday: spoke out against the protest camp occupying Housing Executive land without permission
There are various options I am sure he is looking at but he has qualified that and explained that he meant everything, whether scaled up or not, should be peaceful and legal.
While Nelson’s appearance over the shoulder of an Orangeman contemplating the potential for civil disobedience may have rung alarm bells in his party leader’s head, the party’s position has now been clearly articulated. It feels like a deliberate attempt to keep party representatives on message and air-gapped from any future trouble, and a lot more organised than the piecemeal involvement in and attendance of flag protests last winter.
Peaceful and legal. Within the law.
Now to see whether protesters will heed the party’s analysis.