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Parades Commission has shown route away from conflict for 25 years in Northern Ireland

2 12 399

Whatever happened to riotous marching seasons? As we slip into August, it looks as if the doom-mongers were very wrong. Amid Protocol turmoil and serious disturbances in April, there were fears that this year’s Orange demonstrations could prove the catalyst for the return of disorder that blighted numerous Twelfths.

Instead, we got a situation about as threatening as a church coffee morning. Bonfires may be the new parades, contested, controversial and possibly heading for a regulatory commission. The days of the burning of election posters and effigies are surely numbered. But, however “unpalletable” to some, bonfires are unlikely to revive the mayhem once so routine.

Seven years ago, a senior figure in the Parades Commission, the body established in 1997 to regulate marches, told me: “I do not expect parades to be a major issue in a decade”. She was right — ahead of schedule — and I was wrong in my scepticism.

That I was quizzical was unsurprising. Rioting was an annual Twelfth feature in north Belfast. Managing to get one of the few taxis prepared to head into Ardoyne that evening, the driver, nervous about his car being torched, described my academic journey as “hurricane-chasing”.

I discussed those years recently with another senior former member of the Parades Commission, involved in some of the toughest adjudications.

He described his role as “the best of jobs and the worst of jobs. We made a big difference for good, but got little thanks and a lot of vitriol”. “Vitriol” being a........

© Belfast Telegraph

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