Kennedy pessimistic that Executive will discuss Ardoyne parade dispute Sinn Fein ‘not open to talking with other parties’ on upcoming parade

Danny Kennedy with UUP leader Mike Nesbitt
Danny Kennedy with UUP leader Mike Nesbitt

One of Stormont’s unionist ministers says Sinn Fein seems unwilling to talk to government colleagues about this weekend’s north Belfast Orange parade.

The UUP’s Danny Kennedy had called for the matter to be raised at today’s Executive meeting with Peter Robinson, Martin McGuinness, and the other power-sharing ministers.

He said he was hopeful of creating some last-minute impetus to resolve what could be a fiery face-off in north Belfast on the Twelfth, when police are set to block an Orange parade from returning home past the Ardoyne shops.

But despite dominating the news headlines, Mr Kennedy said it looks uncertain whether it will make it onto the Executive’s agenda.

“Even if it’s a forced discussion I think it needs to be heard,” he said. “I want to approach it in a positive light and hope others will approach it in the same way – however, the signals that we’ve heard from Sinn Fein particularly are not helpful. But we’ll see.

“They don’t appear to be (amenable to discussing it). Their initial response to my suggestion I think could be described as negative.”

Previously, Sinn Fein had accused unionists of being unwilling to compromise or engage in dialogue over the Haass talks.

Mr Kennedy added: “Let’s see who’s really in favour of making progress, or if certain parties are simply content to hide behind the Parades Commission’s ruling.”

He said he is hopeful of finding “some final impetus to finding a solution ... We’ll see who’s interested in being equally positive.”

A Sinn Fein spokesman said “the Parades Commission has made a decision on the Ardoyne parade and this should be respected”.

The party statement said: “The irony of the UUP walking out of talks set up to deal with parades, flags and the past and their rejection of the Haass proposals is obviously lost on Danny Kennedy.”

The Executive meeting will be at 11am.