Parades group completes work

Parades group completes work

An Assembly working group set up to map a new way forward for dealing with disputed parades in the North will complete its work today amid growing calls for its proposals to be made public.

The panel of three Sinn Féin and three Democratic Unionist representatives was working for the past three weeks on a blueprint for changes to how contentious marches are managed.

The group was set up as part of the landmark agreement between the two parties struck at Hillsborough Castle, Co Down, which ended the crisis over policing and justice devolution.

The six members are due to present their findings to DUP First Minister Peter Robinson and Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, but there is no indication their proposals will be published yet.

This has prompted criticism from the nationalist SDLP and the Ulster Unionists, both of which were already angry at not being given a position in the group.

Last night UUP MLA Fred Cobain branded the process a farce.

“What has come out of the Hillsborough Agreement in relation to parades is something that is completely unacceptable,” he said.

“There is a lack of transparency around the whole process and once again the DUP and SF have left out both ourselves and the SDLP – it is a completely farcical working group.”

The group’s work programme was one of a series of inter-connected processes agreed in the Hillsborough accord that, if completed successfully, should see law and order powers transferred to the regional administration on April 12.

Yesterday residents’ groups in two areas where parade routes are a matter of long-standing dispute – the Lower Ormeau road in Belfast and the Garvaghy Road in Portadown, Co Armagh – published the submission they sent to the working group last week.

The Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition and the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community said they were making the correspondence public because were concerned that the group’s final submission to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister would not be disclosed.

The row over the group’s formation and whether the proposals will be made public came as relations between the DUP and Sinn Féin flared over the parading issue.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds yesterday demanded an apology from Mr McGuinness over comments he made at an IRA commemoration when he told the Orange Order to face up to the fact they could no longer march in nationalist areas where people did not want them.

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