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Unionists urged to abandon call for 'lop-sided' inquiry

Published 23/07/2014




UNIONISTS have been urged to abandon their calls for a "lop-sided" inquiry into parading and get back around the table to tackle all contentious issues.

The call came from Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness following a meeting with the secretary of state yesterday.

The Sinn Féin MLA held discussions with Theresa Villiers at Stormont Castle ahead of her meeting with the combined unionist leadership.

The unionist delegation included representatives from the DUP, the Ulster Unionist Party, the TUV, UKIP, PUP, UPRG and Orange Order.

Their meeting with the secretary of state was arranged to discuss the joint call for a commission of inquiry into parading in north Belfast.

As part of the united unionist front's 'graduated response', they would like a commission to hear evidence, carry out research and initiate and oversee dialogue.

However, Mr McGuinness insisted that a commission of inquiry was not the way to deal with the issue.

He said a better way was for all parties at Stormont to get back around the table to hammer out an agreement on disputes over parades, flags and the legacy of the past.

The DUP and Ulster Unionists walked out of the latest talks initiative in protest at the Parades Commission determination on a July 12 march past Ardoyne in north Belfast.

"The type of inquiry that is being proposed by the unionists is a nonsense in my view," Mr McGuinness said after his meeting with Ms Villiers.

The deputy first minister said he was prepared to look at issues outside of the remit of the Parades Commission but would not support anything that would undermine the integrity of the adjudication body.

"What I am saying very, very clearly and it should not be lost on the unionist leaders, is the situation at Ardoyne isn't going to be resolved by them cobbling together an agreement for an inquiry with Theresa Villiers to the exclusion of everybody else. That is not the way this process has moved forward successfully over the course of the last 20 years," he said.

"It needs to be a process that everyone signs up to."

But the DUP leader insisted the proposed commission would not be a lop-sided, pro-unionist vehicle.

Mr Robinson appeared to invite nationalists to take part by insisting an inquiry would not work if it was not backed by all shades of opinion.

"There is a need for people to objectively look at the issue rather than saying 'this comes from unionism therefore we are against it because we are nationalists or republicans'," he said.

The Parades Commission determination on the return leg of the Crumlin Road parade did advocate some form of new framework to finally try and find a solution to the long-standing dispute.

"Let's be very clear - we want to get cross-community support for this kind of proposition, it doesn't fully work unless there is," the DUP leader said.

"There is no point setting up a commission only to talk to unionists."

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt, who accompanied Mr Robinson during the hour-long meeting with Ms Villiers, said a decision on the commission of inquiry had to be made sooner rather than later.