Villiers hopes for progress on parades but sees no sign of it yet

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers
Secretary of State Theresa Villiers

The Secretary of State has said that she is not aware of any imminent parading breakthrough – either on replacing the Parades Commission or on resolving individual contentious marches.

Although there was just one line on parading in the DUP manifesto, the party’s resounding mandate in the Assembly election and the fact that there is no scheduled election for three years means that it may now press for the replacement of the Parades Commission.

Parading season is imminent

Parading season is imminent

When asked whether the absence of an election on the horizon and the strong mandates for the DUP and Sinn Fein now offered an opportunity for the issue of parades legislation to be solved, Ms Villiers – who remains responsible for the Parades Commission – told the News Letter: “I think it’s important for the parties to focus on this.

“I would like us to get to the stage where we could devolve parading, but I also recognise that even if it were possible to deliver a new reformed devolved parading system, that won’t solve all the disputed parades and the only way that we are going to reach a resolution on those is by concerted local dialogue.

“I always appeal to the organisations involved on both sides to engage with one another, to speak to one another, to see if they can resolve these very difficult disputes.”

When it was put to Ms Villiers that she did not sound particularly hopeful that this year’s marching season would be different to that of recent years, she said: “There is strong support in Northern Ireland for a peaceful parading season.

“I think that people recognise how important it is that even where there is a difference of view about which parades should happen and where they should go that there is strong support in Northern Ireland for respect for the rule of law and respect for Parades Commission determinations.

“To be honest, at the moment I’m not aware of any imminent breakthrough whether it’s on the system of decision-making as a whole or whether it’s on individual parades.

“But I will continue to work with both the local groups and with Northern Ireland’s leaders to see if we can make some progress on that.”