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Commission can feel justly proud

(Editorial, Irish News)

While the Parades Commission had to face a range of internal issues over the last year it is entitled to look back with huge satisfaction on one of the most peaceful marching seasons in living memory.

Cynics might suggest that both the Orange Order – after its disastrous handling of the 2005 Whiterock riots in Belfast – and republican groups, with one eye on wider political developments, had strong reasons for avoiding confrontations during the past summer.

Regardless of those circumstances, the contributions of both the commission and a number of community-based organisations still deserves considerable praise.

All sections of society should be able to appreciate that disputes can best be resolved through open dialogue and that there are massive benefits in ensuring that marches pass off without incident.

If progress continues to be made, senior figures in the commission are fully justified in looking to the day when the body no longer needs to exist.

Less than 200 out of almost 3,000 annual parades require a determination from the commission and almost a third of these rulings relate directly to the Drumcree saga in Portadown.

Yesterday's (Wednesday) report from the commission, 'Parading in a Peaceful Northern Ireland' outlines proposals which have the potential to significantly reduce the already relatively low level of determinations.

If normality really does return to our streets on a permanent basis, the future of the peacelines which divide so many districts of Belfast will also have to be discussed.

This is a debate for the longer term, which can only develop with the active involvement of community leaders and elected representative on all sides.

However, it would be entirely wrong to assume that alternatives to maintaining and even extending the present physical structures can never be considered.

October 27, 2006

This article appeared first in the October 26, 2006 edition of the Irish News.

This article appears thanks to the Irish News. Subscribe to the Irish News