The withdrawal of the DUP and UUP from Stormont talks on parading has actually confirmed the position of the Parades Commission, South Down MLA John McCallister had said.
As the first unionist to speak out against Thursday’s joint unionist action, the former UUP and NI21 deputy leader said that remaining in the talks could have led to an alternative to the commission.
The independent unionist MLA said: “Walking out of all-party talks, with only days to go before parades and protests occur, is not a responsible act. It sends the signal that democratic politics cannot be trusted to address the debates around parading.
“It also profoundly undermines trust in the ability of the devolved institutions to act for the common good of all in this society. By walking out of all-party talks on parades, which were seeking a successor to the Parades Commission, the DUP and UUP have ironically confirmed that for the foreseeable future the ‘only show in town’ will be the commission.
“This being so, all political leaders – irrespective of their views on individual determinations – must call on those involved in parades and protests to abide by the commission’s determinations. A failure to do so will undermine the rule of law.”
Meanwhile, Justice Minister and Alliance leader David Ford warned about the dangers of street protest.
He said: “Sadly, it is inevitable that when leaders call for ‘peaceful protest’, people will come out onto the streets and it will be the young people who are the ones who are punished when they receive criminal records for taking part in violence ... sooner or later, the DUP and UUP will have to come back to the table.”