Details within days on unionists’ next step in ‘graduated response’: DUP

Orange Order
Orange Order

The Secretary of State and DUP yesterday promised progress soon on the pan-unionist ‘graduated response’ against the Parades Commission – amid growing frustration over the matter among grassroots unionists.

At the start of July unionist leaders came together in a rare show of unity to plead for exclusively peaceful protests after the Parades Commission again stopped the Twelfth of July Orange parade returning past the Ardoyne shops in Belfast.

Unionists and Orange Order leaders who met with Secretary of State Theresa Villiers

Unionists and Orange Order leaders who met with Secretary of State Theresa Villiers

The DUP, UUP, TUV, PUP and UPRG issued a statement slamming the Haass talks process, and branded the Parades Commission “immune to reason” and of “rewarding threats of violence”.

They also called for a commission of inquiry into how it has handled the Ardoyne parade and promised a “graduated response” to the issue.

Yesterday a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said she met various political leaders recently “to discuss the potential for a new process on parades in north Belfast”.

“As she made clear at those meetings, the Secretary of State is taking this matter very seriously and is now reflecting further before making a decision on any next steps.”

A DUP spokesman said that a joint unionist statement “on the next stage of the graduated response will be issued in the coming days”.

He added: “The parties are awaiting the Secretary of State’s formal and detailed response to the commission proposal. This is the only positive proposal put forward to resolve this unfair and unacceptable situation.”

However, the TUV said that “given past weakening of robust stands, we totally understand growing impatience with the need for a demonstrable and effective ‘graduated response’, which leaves no one in doubt as to unionism’s determination to deliver on this key issue.

“If at any point TUV concludes that delivery is not intended and stances were merely to get past ‘the Twelfth’, then, we will not be slow to say so and act accordingly.”

The Orange Order said yesterday that it is still working with unionist leaders and that further steps to change the regulatory system for parades will be “unveiled in due course”.

A spokesman said: “We will be working on a timetable agreed by all the campaign partners in the unionist family. It is a vital part of this campaign that the broad coalition which has been formed moves forward together.”

There have been problems with the Parades Commission for 16 years, he said, and those who believe they will be resolved in 16 days or 16 weeks, “are not living in the real world”.

Isaac Andrews of west Belfast UPRG said some were asking if there had been “a stalling tactic to get us over the summer”? He said there had been growing anger over a dissident republican parade in Belfast on August 10 and masked men firing over the coffin of Tony Catney this week.