Appeals for peace as north awaits 'graduated response'

John Manley Political Reporter

NO FURTHER details have emerged of the combined unionist parties' "graduated response" to last week's Ardoyne parade ruling.

Despite numerous media requests to reveal their plans for protesting against the Parades Commission's determination, no information has been given beyond last week's statement signalling a walk-out from the Stormont talks.

However, as fears of mass loyalist mobilisation over the Twelfth persist, unionist leaders have repeated their call for any action to peaceful.

As senior Orangemen last night joined the loyalist protest at Twaddell Avenue in north Belfast, nationalist politicians took their concerns about the deteriorating situation to Dublin.

Both Sinn Féin and the SDLP were last night scheduled to meet Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Speaking ahead of his party delegation's meeting with the taoiseach and newly-appointed tánaiste Joan Burton, SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said there were "challenges ahead".

The South Belfast MP and MLA said it was essential that the British and Irish governments became involved in the process aimed at resolving flags, parades and the past.

"The situation in Northern Ireland has become volatile and, with threats of a graduated response from unionism that will affect government and politics, could get worse," he said.

"In that context there is no question that the SDLP will continue to support the assembly, the executive and the rule of law."

Dr McDonnell reiterated the SDLP's commitment to the revived Haass process, which collapsed last week on its second day after the DUP and Ulster Unionists walked out.

"Walking away from dialogue is not leadership," he said.

"We need people to get back to the discussion table, to stop the political brinkmanship and to start acting in the interests of healing our divided society."

Stormont's ruling parties are expected to come together today for what is expected to be a fractious meeting of the Northern Ireland Executive.

DUP North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said the Stormont ministers needed to discuss "the denial of shared space to the unionist community by republican threats of violence".

Mr Dodds said there would further announcements about the graduated response later this week and he blamed the Parades Commission for heightening tensions.

Sinn Féin warned unionists about the potential damage mass mobilisation could have on the north's reputation as a tourist destination.

North Antrim MLA Daithí McKay said the unspecified political action would scare off visitors.

"There is no doubt that the position taken by unionist politicians in recent days is sending negative signals out to potential tourists," he said.

"It is such a shame that we are not yet in a position where we can compete equally for tourism markets given this adverse situation we have every summer."

Mr McKay said the Orange Order and unionist politicians could not be allowed to "hold society to ransom every summer".

* 'DENIAL OF SHARED SPACE TO UNIONIST COMMUNITY': Deputy DUP leader and North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds


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