Unionist plans will only create uncertainty and fear, says SDLP

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell
SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell

Unionist plans to escalate protests in response to the Parades Commission determination on the Ardoyne parade ‘will only serve to create uncertainty, unease and fear’, the SDLP leader has said.

Dr Alasdair McDonnell said unionist plans ‘raise more questions than they answer’.

“This appears to be a deliberate attempt to flout the Parades Commission’s determinations made on every parade. There is a real risk that this will increase potential disputes across Northern Ireland where previously there was no contention,” said the MP. “The threat that this will extend and escalate beyond the Twelfth will be worrying news for business and retailers and those in the tourism and hospitality sectors, as well as the general public.”

Meanwhile, the leaders of the DUP and the UUP are ‘undermining the pro-Union cause’ by creating a ‘pan-loyalist front’ with organisations with links to paramilitaries, according to NI Conservatives’ spokesman Mark Brotherston.

“Politics requires all sorts of talks and all sorts of discussions with all sorts of people. But the fact that Peter Robinson and Mike Nesbitt are happy to call a press conference alongside an unabashed former terrorist like Billy Hutchinson says it all about their commitment to mainstream British values,” he said.

“The DUP and the UUP are in bed with organisations that have open links to paramilitary organisations, as they cobble together their so–called ‘graduated’ response and make claims to speak for a ‘PUL’ community.”

Justice Minister David Ford called on everyone with influence to work for a peaceful marching season. He said: “It is not acceptable for anyone to defy legally binding determinations and the police have confirmed they will fulfil their obligations to uphold the law.”

The Policing Board also issued a statement urging all those involved in parades and protests to work with the police to ensure these pass both lawfully and peacefully.

“Those who choose to engage in disorder will have to face the consequences of their actions but we hope that all those with influence will continue to use it to ensure that events pass without incident,” it said.