We’ve Entered a New Period in North’s Marching History

Posted By: July 09, 2016

Allison Morris. Irish News ( Belfast). Saturday, July 9, 2016

OVER the years the Parades Commission has tried numerous methods to resolve marching disputes, with various degrees of success.

The watchdog is tasked with the thankless job of solving conflicts in areas where policing and politics have previously failed.

It has been said in the past and remains the case that the vast majority of parades will pass off this Tuesday without incident.

The number of contentious routes has also gradually declined until only a handful require determinations and heavy policing to uphold the rulings.

This year the commission seems to have taken the view that while early morning parades can take place with relatively little disruption, it is better to ban return legs from contested areas.

While in the past this would have resulted in loyalist outrage, protests, and even violence, there has been a muted response to this week’s rulings. The Orange Order seems to have accepted that it will never change the minds of the commissioners and is instead holding out for new legislation under the Fresh Start agreement.

The camp at Twaddell has run its course, with all but a handful of protesters having abandoned the interface campsite in north Belfast.

Looking back over contentious marches and the patterns that have developed, it is clear that once banned, parades are not reinstated.

We’ve had one of the most peaceful marching seasons to date and the response to this week’s determinations will have raised hopes that the Twelfth will pass without major incident.

If that does happen, we can safely say we’ve entered a new period in Northern Ireland’s marching history. Do parades that take place amid large-scale policing operations no longer hold the same appeal for a battle-weary Orange Order?

Are we now in an era where nationalist residents have resigned themselves to morning marches as long as the threat of a return parade no longer looms large?

With just days to go until the biggest day in the marching calendar, the Parades Commission won’t have long to wait to see if it has called it right.