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Ardoyne and Orange Parades

The unchanging attitude of a minority in our community towards the use of political violence and the continuance of communal conflict long after the so called ‘war’ has been definitively declared as being over, reminds me of the tiny remnants of Japanese soldiers who even into the 1960s remained in the jungle conducting guerrilla tactics, refusing to surrender and more absurdly refusing to believe that the war was well and truly over! They had to be lured out of the jungle and played recordings of the Japanese Emperor ordering the army to surrender before accepting a reality that had existed for the previous twenty years. There are those who believe that political violence should still be used in order to bring about further political change, or to settle the contentious, unresolved issue of Orange Parades on the upper Crumlin Road.

All elected political representatives, be they SDLP or Sinn Fein, want to see this outstanding problem resolved, not least because if it is not solved, it will continue to fester and act as a cancer to prevent the development of better community relations in this part of Belfast for the indefinite future. But more importantly it is the residents who live in this area who want, and indeed deserve, an end to this recurrent problem. In particular the residents on the Crumlin Road, and especially those living in Mountainview, who are most adversely affected by this recurrent problem and have suffered for years through no fault of their own. There are workable solutions, which can only be achieved through negotiations between residents and the Loyal Orders, based on goodwill and a willingness to compromise.

But compromise is unfortunately a dirty word for some, on both sides of the political divide, especially those who irresponsibly continue to stir the pot through street violence and actively encourage young people to riot. What was so frightening about the recent riots, on the 13th, 14th and 15th of July, was the young age range of people involved. Are we seriously going to allow another generation of young people to be stigmatised with criminal records, or even worse to graduate into full scale paramilitary violence, risking imprisonment, serious injury, or even death? As I have said before the ‘war’ is over and after fifteen years after the ceasefires of 1994 and eleven years after the Good Friday Agreement, is absurd as the reluctant Japanese soldiers denying the reality of the end of the Second World War.

Some have blamed Eirigi or the so called dissidents for organising these riots. Others maintain that they were a spontaneous reaction by young people frustrated by events and a lack of delivery for the local community in Ardoyne. Whatever has happened to have caused these riots I am certain that they have done nothing to resolve the outstanding and deep rooted sectarian problem of oranges parades and furthermore did nothing to advance the welfare or interests of the young people in Ardoyne. In addition, haven’t the good people of Ardoyne not suffered enough misery over the years from futile violence, to have yet more misery heaped upon them this summer?

Neither I nor my party ever believed that violence was a politically moral or acceptable way of proceeding, but even those who supported the ‘armed struggle’ must concede that this outbreak of violence has done nothing to assist the cause of finding a solution to the problem of orange parades. It has brought nothing but negative publicity to Ardoyne and only strengthened the hand of those on the loyalist side, who wish to frustrate the finding of a solution to this seemingly intractable problem.



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