Unionists stay tight-lipped on proposed plan of action

John Manley Political Reporter

UNIONISM was yesterday remaining tight-lipped about what form its 'graduated response' might take after Thursday's Parades Commission determination on the return leg of a July 12 march on the Crumlin Road.

After the DUP and Ulster Union-ists walked out of the revived talks process at Stormont, they released a statement along with the TUV, PUP and UPRG warning of a "plan of action".

But despite several meetings between the parties yesterday, there was no indication what form the pan-unionist action would take.

The Irish News yesterday reported how a series of protests were planned in the days running up to next Saturday's Twelfth celebrations but there has yet to be any official confirmation of this.

The DUP and UUP are also expected to take political action but so far they have declined to say what this might be.

The options open to them include boycotting Tuesday's final executive meeting before the summer recess or recalling the assembly to debate the implications of the Parades Commission decision. It is also possible that the DUP's MPs will put forward a motion at Westminster in the middle of next week.

DUP sources were last night giving little away about the planned course of action. However, notably, they were keen to stress that yesterday's North-South Ministerial Council meeting was cancelled, not as a political gesture but rather because senior personnel needed to be in Belfast.

DUP leader Peter Robinson and his Ulster Unionist counterpart Mike Nesbitt met senior Orangemen in Belfast yesterday.

Orange Order Grand Master Edward Stevenson described the meeting as "productive" and said the institution backed the parties' response to the Parades Commission's ruling.

"We will continue purposeful dialogue within the Orange family and wider pro-union community over the coming days and will outline our response in due course," he said.

"Although there is much anger at the latest restriction on our legitimate cultural expression and traditions, I would once again reiterate the institution's call for any protest to be lawful and peaceful. Violence will not help our cause and only play into the hands of our enemies."

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams urged the Irish and British governments "not to acquiesce to unionist threats".

He said the governments needed to make it clear that they are intent on ensuring continuing progress.

"Unionist leaders cannot divorce themselves from the likely consequences of their call for protests against the Ardoyne decision by the Parades Commission," he said.

Alliance leader David Ford warned that it was dangerous to call for a peaceful protest when it would inevitably bring people onto the streets.

"Sadly, it is inevitable that when leaders call for peaceful protest, people will come out onto the streets and it will be the young people who are the ones who are punished when they receive criminal records for taking part in violence," he said.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he watched developments over recent days with "growing dismay" and he criticised unionists for walking out of the talks.

"I consider the decision of the leaders of unionism to withdraw from important talks, because of a Parades Commission determination, to be a symptom of profound political failure," he said.

* ANGER: A crowd and, inset, police outside the loyalist Twaddell Avenue protest camp in Belfast last night


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