The Orange Order has lashed out at the Secretary of State over the decision to scrap a panel examining the tense north Belfast parades dispute.
Such a move had been promised back in October, following unresolved unionist complaints about the refusal to let three north Belfast lodges return up the main Crumlin Road on the Twelfth in 2013, and again in 2014.
Then late on Tuesday night, following the publication long-awaited outcome of the multi-party talks (which also includes a way forward on parades in general), the Northern Ireland Office said the idea of a panel to look specifically at north Belfast has been axed.
The Orange Order said that the Secretary of State’s move showed “contempt” for the Order and unionist politicians.
The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland said in a statement reading: “It is proving increasingly difficult to show those from the parading tradition that politics works, given the underhand manner in which the Secretary of State has dealt with the Ligoniel impasse.”
It added that the Order is “extremely concerned and will be meeting with unionist political representatives at the earliest opportunity after the Christmas holidays to discuss the seriousness of the situation, created by a weak Secretary of State.”
It was not alone in heaping criticism on the move.
UKIP MLA David McNarry said the Secretary of State had “cracked under Sinn Fein pressure and danced to the republican tune in betraying an agreement she had freely and willingly initiated”.
Jeffrey Donaldson said on Christmas Eve that a fresh attempt to resolve the north Belfast situation will be made in the New Year.
The announcement the panel was being dropped read: “The Government remains fully committed to seeking a resolution to the situation Twaddell/Ardoyne. When we announced the Terms of Reference for a panel on parading in North Belfast, we stated that a key principle was it must command cross community support...
“It has become apparent that there is insufficient support for the proposed panel among some of those most closely involved in the dispute. This is reflected, to varying degrees, on both sides of the community. We have therefore decided, on balance, not to go ahead with setting up the panel. “
It ended by saying the move was not connected to the Stormont House Agreement – the document setting out the deal struck on Tuesday by the Province’s leaders.
The vastly wide-ranging document includes agreement that power on parades should lie with the Assembly.
Detailed proposals are to be brought forward by June, and to go out to consultation.
. The TUV said there was “no republican good will this Christmas” after an incident in which banners were ripped at the loyalist Twaddell camp. A 25-year-old man is due to appear in court on January 21 charged with criminal damage; a charge understood to be linked to the incident.