Theresa Villiers: “It is in the interests of everyone affected… that a way forward is found towards a local resolution.”

As the BBC’s Mark Devenport reports, the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, has proposed that a panel of “experts” be appointed with the objective of mediating “an agreed accommodation between local people in respect of Loyal Order parades in the Twaddell and Ardoyne areas of north Belfast”.

The official NIO statement includes the terms of reference, key principles, and the proposed structure of the panel and its timescale.

Terms of reference

In order to mediate an agreed accommodation between local people in respect of Loyal Order parades in the Twaddell and Ardoyne areas of north Belfast, a Panel will be established with the following terms of reference:

  • to receive written and oral information from all interested parties involved in parading or protest action in this area
  • to commission research to assess contemporary attitudes to parading or protest action in this area
  • to produce a factual account of historic parading and protest action in this area and a synopsis of previous attempts to resolve the impasse
  • to produce a factual account of the factors that have influenced the local divide (between communities drawn from the two main traditions in Northern Ireland) in this area
  • to engage with stakeholders drawn from both sides of the community divide, to include Loyal Order, political, community, church and business representatives, with the aim of mediating agreement on future Loyal Order parades in this area
  • to report on the terms of any local agreement reached
  • to produce a Chairman’s report reflecting on the Panel’s work with observations that could inform (i) future efforts to reach a local agreement and build mutual respect and understanding between loyal orders and local residents in North Belfast (ii) future determinations made by the Parades Commission for Northern Ireland and (iii) ongoing discussions on a devolved regulatory framework for parades

Key principles

The decision to establish the panel is underpinned by the following key considerations:

  • the Panel should look at the totality of parading issues in this area on an all-year round basis
  • the Panel’s work shall not affect the ongoing role of the Parades Commission as the authority for determining parades
  • to be successful, the process needs to be able to engage effectively with both sides of the community
  • the process needs to coincide with a resumption of wider inter-party talks
  • the establishment of the process should encourage a scaling back of parades-related protest actions in the area in order to de-escalate local tensions [added emphasis]

Structure of Panel

Who: A panel of experts chaired by a representative from civil society or an academic who can command trust, supported by a secretariat with the requisite skills. Appointments to the panel will be made by the Secretary of State in consultation with the NI Executive. [added emphasis]

Funded by: The Northern Ireland Office

Timescale: The Panel will report by 31January 2015.

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  • Actually, for Republicans ,they already have no parade, so it is not in their interest to see change in that situation. Or does that miss a point or something…?

  • Morpheus

    Another proverbial dummy-tit from the SoS.

    January 31st comes around and the experts report back that a load of people agree with the Parades Commission determination, a load of people disagree and recommends that they speak to each other. Genius

  • Nevin

    SoS’s introduction:

    “Earlier this summer when the Parades Commission for Northern Ireland issued its 12 July determination on the proposed Orange Order return parade in the Ardoyne and Twaddell area of north Belfast, it made a number of important observations.

    The Commission said that the deep-seated issues around parades in the Crumlin Road area need to be addressed by a ‘structured, managed, cohesive approach which provides a framework into which whole communities can contribute, have their voice heard and formulate creative responses’. The Commission called for a wider process with sufficient resources to tackle these issues.

    Following further encouragement to respond positively to the Commission’s call in the media, and a separate but related call for a ‘Commission of Inquiry’ tabled by a cross section of unionists, I held several rounds of meetings with NI political leaders and other interested parties.

    From the outset I made clear that nothing would be done which undermined the role or remit of the Parades Commission as the lawful authority for adjudicating contentious parades in Northern Ireland.

    In discussion, there were divergent views about the merits of such a proposal. But there was also a measure of consensus that something had to be done to help break the deadlock in the Ardoyne / Twaddell area. And that mediation and dialogue between local people aimed at reaching a local accommodation should be an essential ingredient of any such approach.

    Having listened carefully to the views expressed I consider that there is merit in a panel being established to look at this issue. I am making the terms of reference available publicly today, along with a set of principles to underpin this new initiative.

    I believe that efforts to build mutual understanding and trust between the different sides in this dispute, through dialogue and mediation are worth investing in. It is in the interests of everyone affected, and indeed the whole of Northern Ireland, that a way forward is found towards a local resolution. I hope all sides will engage constructively with the Panel.”

    Is this just a ‘kick the can down the road’ exercise? The Parades Commission and the new panel are both chosen by the Secretary of State and the PC secretariat is provided by the NIO so what precisely is new in the SoS response? Is is not just a rearrangement of the deck-chairs? Is it likely to alter in any way the stances adopted by the protagonists?

  • Nevin

    Alban Maginness: “The Secretary of State is promoting a backdoor review of the Commission and one in which the terms of reference puts other parades on the table for discussion and means that future regulation of parading is in question. “It is the view of the SDLP that this Panel on Parading does undermine the Parades Commission and in fact goes well beyond parameters of unionist demands on Ardoyne.”

  • Jag

    Panel* my backside.

    If it walks like an inquiry, swims like an inquiry and quacks like an inquiry, then it’s a double-guessing undermining of the parades commission.

    *the noun, in case anyone gets any funny ideas.

  • Dan

    Another panel, another commission…….all because various troublemaking spides have been given a veto as to whom they can tolerate walking on a main road into and out of the City,

  • Mister_Joe

    Claiming that this doesn’t undermine the Parades Commission is a load of twaddle.

  • Tacapall

    Obviously the only people this panel will be talking to or taking submissions from will be the unionist forum and loyalist paramilitaries. I cant see Sinn Fein, the SDLP or any nationalist residents groups having anything to do with it.

    “to engage with stakeholders drawn from both sides of the community
    divide, to include Loyal Order, political, community, church and
    business representatives, with the aim of mediating agreement on future
    Loyal Order parades in this area
    to report on the terms of any local agreement reached”

    If the loyal orders cant accept the Parades Commission compromise of being able to parade down in the morning but not back up in the evening then whats there to reach agreement on.

  • Mister_Joe

    The “problem” is that some people want to march where they are not wanted, in order to demonstrate their belief in their ascendancy. They just refuse to accept that those days are over, forever. If they persist in their futile attempts, then their morning march should also be denied. Indeed, I think that all such disputed marches should be banned for a 10 year period so that the participants finally get the message. There are thousands of marches that are, at least, tolerated and they can demonstrate their belief that their sect(s) are superior to another one at any one or more of those.

  • streetlegal

    This announcement is a victory for Nigel Dodds – organisational genius and architect of ‘Le Reponse Graduee Orangiste’. He has successfully persuaded David Cameron to undermine the writ of the Parades Commission.

  • Roy Reilly-Robertson

    It is entirely right to see this a sleight of hand that will undermine the Parades Commission while supposedly taking the interests of the objectors and residents into consideration. The problem is not the creation of Twaddell Camp and the refusal of the OO and supporters to stop their protest. The problem is that there is a lack of leadership from the Unionist leaders to stand up and say that as supporters of Law and Order people should comply with the demands of the law being laid on them. Not go into we don’t have to obey the laws that we decide we don’t want to accept. The PC is a legal body and its decisions should be accepted and complied with.
    The whole of the non-Nationalist/Republican side has got itself nailed to a door that is swinging on a hinge of the lowest level of loyalism imaginable.
    The message to the wider community is that there is no society and no need to abide by anything that demands restraint, morally, politically or socially. This is a self-destructive self-informing spiral that cannot be allowed to continue for ever, or even for very much longer.
    The demands of leadership is to take hard decisions and take stands against your own supporters when they are needing direction. Hard decisions are hard to take but have to be taken by real leaders. There is no sign that any vision or forethought about ‘what next?’ really exists on the Unionist side and until people remember the Army maxim of ‘never reinforce a losing position’ and apply it to the ‘what next’ question nothing moves forward.
    Law and order parties have to accept that no all legal decisions are easy to live with but laws are there to be kept not broken.
    There is nothing at Twaddell that that is worth having this long running pantomime continue indefinitely. The rights or wrongs of the completion of the parade and its ‘human rights’ issues have long fled from the argument and what remains is now simply a battle of wills and a notion that the OO should go where it wants as it did in the past.
    I could see this as a way forward IF the OO was not actually composed of an incredibly small number of people and this represents just how popular it and its activities are to the majority of the Protestant people.
    Someone has to stand up and say we need a way forward that is not predicated on unending and uncritical support for the Loyal Orders and their supporters.

  • BarrelOfPorter

    Possibly more a case of David Cameron throwing potentially useful doggies a bone in an election year.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It’s funny to hear republicans arguing against engagement, against inquiries and in defence of British rule from London in the form of the Parades Commission, which is appointed by and solely accountable to the Secretary of State. It’s as if they stole all the usual Unionist clichés.

    Boycotting any kind of inquiry is wrong. If republicans are serious about arriving at a solution then they should approach every proposal at face value, including this one.

    I fully anticipate that the inquiry will deliver an outcome that unionists will not be happy with. In which case the rest of us should simply say “we tried your idea and it did not work. Now get back to the talks table”.

  • Mister_Joe

    She’s full of it. There is no such thing as a “measure of consensus”. There either is or isn’t. Perhaps she means that the two scofflaws from the “Loyalist Forum” agree with each other. Doesn’t she have a degree from somewhere or a part of a degree maybe?

  • Tacapall

    Comrade whats wrong with the present compromise of the loyal orders being able to march down in the morning but not back up in the evening, is that not a compromise imposed, in the interests of equality, parity of esteem and all that, by the British government controlled parades commission who you say the parades commission are answerable to. So what does the British government want us there for ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    It is obvious that the unionists are unhappy with the situation, and that there isn’t a solution at Ardoyne; so it is reasonable to try to do what we can to solve it, and take everyone on face value.

    This is like the unionists claiming in the past that nationalists should simply shut up and support the lawfully-constituted RUC. You can’t just wave away someone else’s objections because you don’t think they’re valid.

    And I don’t think anyone accepts the Parades Commission. SF don’t, and OFMDFM consulted on setting up our own local commission. What we need Unionists to do is define their parameters for how they think any parades ruling body should actually work, and see where the basis of agreement can be found from there.

  • Tacapall

    Comrade Im sure unionists are unhappy, after all, time is not on the side of some of those Twaddle camp geezers. they thought they’d have blackmailed British government long ago. Winters coming too and its gonna be a bad one, though they can spend all those dark cold nights huddled round the fire bullshitting the young and the ignorant of how their fathers and forefathers supposedly had anything to do with the battle of the Boyne.

    We can just wave away their views and objections, you forget we have already been down that road the loyal order and unionists walked away from talks because no-one would jump through their hoops.

    Well regardless of what people feel about the parades commission its has the support of the majority of people in this part of Ireland and what the loyal orders want is for that majority roll over and allow them free reign to march wherever they please whenever they please.

  • Croiteir

    Yes you are – there is a parade not only at Ardoyne but thousands elsewhere