Talks on parades ‘must be key’ to political deal

The Apprentice Boys' Easter parade took place in Ballynahinch yesterday
The Apprentice Boys' Easter parade took place in Ballynahinch yesterday

A top Orangeman has stressed the issue of parading is as critical as “anything else on the agenda” in the current political negotiations, which are set to resume this week.

Darryl Hewitt was speaking as the 2017 marching season officially got under way in Northern Ireland yesterday, as up to 4,600 people took part in the Apprentice Boys of Derry Easter parade in Ballynahinch.

MORE: In pictures: Apprentice Boys on the march across NI

He warned that tensions surrounding contentious parades in the Province will remain high unless political leaders can resolve outstanding peace process issues.

The last few days have seen controversial parades in the headlines again, with police carrying out a “robust investigation” into an illegal republican parade which took place in Co Armagh on Saturday.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell condemned a dissident republican parade in Londonderry yesterday which saw people dressed in military garb with their faces partially covered.

Mr Hewitt, Portadown district master, said the issue of parading should be high on the agenda at the resumption of the political negotiations tomorrow.

He told the News Letter: “Parading must be a key item for discussion at the talks; as important as legacy issues and anything else on the agenda.

“Until it is addressed, tensions are always going to be high around the marching season.

“The situation will never improve unless an agreement is reached between the political parties.”