Troubled marching season not inevitable - parades chief

Peter Osborne
Peter Osborne

THE violence surrounding the flag protests does not make a turbulent marching season inevitable - the chairman of the Parades Commission has said.

In a statement published on Tuesday, Peter Osborne accepted that “we start from a challenging position” but added there were “positives from last year to build upon”.

Fears of a volatile marching season were heightened last week when a leading Orangeman said the Order could review its strategy over parade notification.

Mr Osborne praised the loyal orders for their “commitment to seek resolutions to sensitive parades in contentious areas such as Ardoyne”.

“These public commitments created an expectation of progress and we hope that those who offered them will engage as we approach the summer,” he said.

“Amidst the difficulties of last year people came to understand that they had a responsibility to reduce rather than heighten tension, to parade and protest respectfully, and to engage with others in a meaningful way.

“Looking towards summer 2013 the Commission still believes that there is time to shift the focus from confrontation to dialogue and better understanding.

“People have a choice. Recent events have demonstrated what happens when poor choices are made - there is disruption, disorder and rioting on our streets.

“This summer we want people to make different choices, a choice of engagement, a choice of respect for others, a choice of law and order. Everyone has these choices in front of them, parading organisations, local communities, politicians and wider civic society.

“The Commission remains committed to dialogue and engagement as the means to securing progress on parading. If people make positive choices, perhaps there will be less need for the Commission to make decisions this summer.

“Organisations such as the Parades Commission and PSNI have very challenging tasks to help manage deep-rooted community relations issues. It is important this is recognised by civic leaders, whether political, faith-based, community or business as we head in to the ‘parading season’.”

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