The political firmament in Northern Ireland has certainly overheated in recent days with the fall-out from the Parades Commission ruling not to allow an Orange parade on the upper Crumlin Road in north Belfast on July 12.
Not surprisingly, unionists are angered by the commission’s consistent, true-to-form rejections of Orange parade applications and their politicians have united to co-ordinate a strategy aimed at redressing the imbalance that is all too apparent in decisions taken by the unelected parading quango.
Unionist politicians have a democratic mandate and any strategy they embark upon on the parading issue and, indeed, in dealing with ongoing flag disputes, has to be progressed with full recognition that peace must prevail and the rule of law upheld.
This has been acknowledged in comments made by senior unionist politicians over the past 48 hours and, in any street protests, every effort must be made by those with influence to avoid confrontation, either with rival republican-nationalist elements or the police.
For the new PSNI chief constable George Hamilton, his first week at the helm has come with an air of foreboding. But, as the highly experienced policeman that he is, Mr Hamilton takes a philosophical, realistic approach that is grounded in acceptance of his onerous responsibility as guardian of the province’s law-enforcement remit.
The chief constable says he is reassured by calls from the political parties for no violence resulting from the north Belfast parade ruling. But he cautions: “In the middle of all this we need to be clear about the police’s role, which is to keep people safe and to uphold the rule of law. People have choices to make about how they are going to behave on the streets in the next two weeks.”
George Hamilton is a proud Ulsterman with a personal stake in this society. His measured words and advice must be heeded by all those who believe in a peaceful Northern Ireland that provides the space and a fair deal for people of all cultural traditions.