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Parades: Disputes Panel

Volume 587: debated on Wednesday 29 October 2014

2. What the geographical remit will be of the recently announced panel to discuss parading disputes in Northern Ireland. (905665)

The proposal I announced on 7 October relates to disputed parades in the Twaddell and Ardoyne area of north Belfast, responding to the call by the Parades Commission for a wider, more structured process to address the issues around parades in the area.

I thank the Secretary of State for that clarification, but does she agree that resolution also needs to be found to the dispute in Drumcree in my constituency, which has been ongoing for the past 16 years?

I recognise the grave disappointment that the hon. Gentleman and many in the Unionist and loyalist community feel about the situation in relation to that parade. It is important for all sides, wherever there is a dispute about a parade, to engage in a local dialogue to try to take things forward. In many parts of Northern Ireland that has proved successful in taking the tension out of parading and reaching an agreement with local residents affected.

On parading, does the Secretary of State agree that the current political paralysis in Northern Ireland is undermining already shaky local faith in its elected politicians? Although I wish the Secretary of State well, I do not believe that the Prime Minister has been engaging closely or energetically enough with the parties to ensure that the 2007 settlement remains in good faith. I make no party point on this: from experience, I know that Northern Ireland needs constant care and attention from No. 10 and I hope it will now get that.

I assure the right hon. Gentleman that Northern Ireland does get constant care and attention from the Prime Minister, not just with his decision to bring the G8 to Northern Ireland, but everyday in focusing on the security situation and repairing the Northern Ireland economy and, of course, by closely following these talks. I agree that it is vital that we do not let disputes about parades, painful though they are, get in the way of the need to reach resolution on important issues such as the budget, flags and reform of parading decisions.