Catholic Primate welcomes NI agreement
The Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, has warmly welcomed the agreement reached between parties on the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
In his statement, the Archbishop of Armagh said that as a wider consultation on the proposals begins, he hoped “everyone in our society will reflect on what has been agreed” with a spirit of “generosity and concern for the good of the whole community”.
He added that Northern Ireland needed “an urgent and united effort to stimulate economic recovery, address social need, to ensure the best possible education provision for children and to build on the vast improvement in community relations which has taken place in recent years”.
The Cardinal called for a “spirit of neighbourliness, welcome and generosity” amongst the people of Northern Ireland, and he said a local devolved Executive, working efficiently and in partnership for the good of everyone in our society remains the most effective way of achieving this.
On the contentious issue of parades, the Catholic Primate expressed his hope that efforts to address the issue would be “met with generosity, sensitivity and a willingness to go beyond old ways of approaching each other on all sides”.
“Respectful dialogue and a willingness to treat each other with dignity and respect have been shown time and time again to be the most effective way of resolving the issues which challenge our society”, he said.
“This remains the only way forward and the most effective way of refuting those who would wish to bring us back to the futility of violence and division”, Cardinal Brady added.
Meanwhile members of Loyalist marching organisations in Northern Ireland have welcomed the promise of a new system for overseeing parades in the deal, but Republican residents’ groups have expressed concerns over any changes.
The Orange Order, Royal Black Institution and the Apprentice Boys groups who organise thousands of parades across Northern Ireland each year had lobbied for the change which Unionist politicians sought in the Hillsborough agreement.
The deal sets out a timetable for establishing a system to replace the independent Parades Commission which currently rules on controversial marches in the relatively small number of locations where tensions still run high.
The agreement outlines plans for a greater focus on local accommodation on disputed parade routes where Catholic communities object to marches.
The Orange Order said, “The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland and the Royal Black Institution will now examine in detail the aspects of the political agreement involving public assemblies and parades.
“Our initial reaction is that it is a positive step forward and we are pleased that people have been focusing on the issue of parading.”
THe organisation added, “Everyone must now work to find the best regulatory system surrounding public assemblies and parades and we remain committed to playing a continuing and constructive part in that.”
The most explosive parade flashpoint has been the Drumcree march in Portadown Co Armagh.
Marchers demanded to follow a traditional route along the predominantly nationalist Garvaghy Road and tensions over the march sparked violence clashes in the 1990s that spread across Northern Ireland.
The Parades Commission has routinely steered the parade away from the Garvaghy area in recent years and suggested an alternative route, but while tensions have subsided considerably the issue remains a sensitive one.
The Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition (GRRC) in Portadown which represents Nationalists in the area said it would have to study the new proposals and test them against human rights legislation.
“At no stage, during the past 12 years has the Orange Order in Portadown been denied the right to freedom of assembly. At no stage during that period, has any outright ban been imposed upon Orange Order parades in Portadown,” the group said.
“Furthermore, and very tellingly, at no time has the Orange Order in Portadown ever sought to legally challenge the validity and lawfulness of any route restrictions imposed, as the Order is only too well aware that such restrictions are compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights.