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ireland, irish, ulster, ireland, irish, ulster, Sinn Féin, Irish America

Politicians helped put police at risk

(Liam Clarke, Belfast Telegraph)

It is disturbing that in the very last lap of this year's marching season practically every unionist politician in Belfast lined up in support of a marching band's right to parade past a Catholic Church in defiance of the law.

A letter of support was issued on the very morning when the Young Conway Volunteers band intended breaching the Parades Commission determination that they should not pass St Patrick"s Church on this occasion.

It was signed by the First Minister Peter Robinson, the Lord Mayor of Belfast, one of our three MEPs and a bevy of elected representatives, as well as organisations such as Shankill Protestants Boys and the loyal institutions.

The letter was, in short, a onesided, unionist roll call, with no cross community or non-aligned signatures.

That alone should give responsible politicians pause of thought.

Dissident republicans out to promote instability will have concluded that this provides an easy opportunity to polarise opinion and draw the police into the firing line.

Somebody has got to adjudicate on contentious marches and the Parades Commission is the body that has been legally appointed to do so.

Its decisions have the sanction of the courts and the loyal orders rejected the last attempt to find a replacement.

Politicians are certainly more than entitled to seek an agreed way forward. Until they find one, Terry Spence, chair of the Police Federation, is right to argue that "while the Parades Commission is not without faults it is the only show in town".

Securing public support for the rule of law from mainstream republicans was one of the core achievements of the DUP in the St Andrews Agreement.

Yet Saturday's events, and the closing of unionist ranks which preceded it, helped undermine the legal process and put the PSNI in harm's way.

August 28, 2012
________________

This article appeared in the August 27, 2012 edition of the Belfast Telegraph.

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