Newton Emerson: DUP needs to get a grip on Orange parade row linked to Irish language signs

Newton Emerson

Newton Emerson

Newton Emerson writes a twice-weekly column for The Irish News and is a regular commentator on current affairs on radio and television.

A 2016 deal between north Belfast lodges and Ardoyne residents resolved the flashpoint parade dispute
A 2016 deal between north Belfast lodges and Ardoyne residents resolved the flashpoint parade dispute

The Parades Commission has refused permission for an Orange parade in north Belfast, saying the application from a Ballysillan lodge showed "egregious disregard" for the landmark 2016 deal between north Belfast lodges and Ardoyne residents.

That deal resolved the last flashpoint parade dispute in Northern Ireland and effectively solved the parading issue, delivering the longest period of peaceful summers since the 1950s. Why would anyone jeopardise it?

A statement from TUV deputy leader and Ballysillan councillor Rob McDowell has linked the parade to Irish language street signs "in parts of Belfast where there is minimal demand for them".

"While one community's culture is set to be imposed where it isn't wanted 365 days a year, another community cannot celebrate theirs on a main road for a few minutes."

The potential here for mischief is catastrophic unless the DUP gets an immediate grip on the situation. There is no sign of it doing so and little reason to hope it will.


The DUP has been accused of raising tensions by Alliance after querying why secretary of state Chris Heaton-Harris is threatening spending cuts and tax rises while offered a "blank cheque" to complete Casement Park.

"Does the NIO believe a controversial GAA stadium is more important than new schools, hospitals or childcare support?" asked DUP MLA Diane Forsythe.

Casement is not 'controversial' and capital projects are budgeted separately to current spending on education, health and childcare. Still, the question is not entirely unreasonable. The problem for the DUP is it would not like the obvious answer: the NIO is giving it a slap over its Stormont boycott.

Heaton-Harris has sounded so exasperated in recent week he may well start making this clear if the DUP asks again.


US special envoy Joe Kennedy has been visiting Northern Ireland
US special envoy Joe Kennedy has been visiting Northern Ireland

US special envoy Joe Kennedy III has been touring Northern Ireland, delivering a masterclass in the American political style of tightly scheduled glad-handing. But he has not brought any potential investors, or announced any investments, despite this being the primary aim of his role.

That is all being saved for a conference in September, creating another pressure point on the DUP to restore devolution. It is also an opportunity for the party to end its boycott, should leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson wish to portray it in those terms.


Conservative MP Simon Hoare, chair of Westminster's Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, has met hardline loyalists to hear their objections to the Windsor Framework.

There are numerous remarkable things about this private encounter, not least that it was facilitated by loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson, who has regularly berated the uber-wet Hoare as "an opponent of the union" and even "an EU/Irish fifth columnist".

However, engaging with paramilitaries is not in itself remarkable. It happens regularly under a range of long-standing policies. If this is no longer acceptable 25 years after the Good Friday Agreement, as some politicians have said in response to Hoare's meeting, the implication is we should move to a purely law enforcement approach.

Most of the public would be fine with that but our political class still baulks at openly advocating 'criminalisation'.


Overseas tourists in the Republic will not be exempt from the UK's new electronic visa waiver, NIO minister Steve Baker has informed the Commons.

Instead, there will be a "communications strategy" reminding tourists they must apply for the online authorisation before crossing the border.

However, the government has always insisted there will be no checks on the Border, so what happens to tourists who ignore the requirement? Although tour companies will almost certainly comply, individual travellers are another matter. This is a clear invitation to "have a blind eye thrown", as Bertie Ahern once put it.


Planning enforcement officers are investigating complaints that a developer is trying to block access to a beach in Warrenpoint.

Large boulders have been placed across a public right of way around the site, where a single large house is under construction.

This story will cause deja vu around Carlingford Lough. Residents and officials fought a lengthy battle a decade ago against the late Lord Ballyedmond, founder of Norbrook Laboratories, after he walled off a beach near Rostrevor.

There is a similar dispute at Greenisland, and one of its best beaches by Belfast Lough, which has had all access blocked off for years. NI Water gets most of the blame but it has only closed one road and is willing to transfer ownership free to the council if maintenance is shared. At least three other traditional rights of way are obstructed by private property.


Council planners have recommended rejecting a 139-unit housing development in west Belfast because it would be surrounded by businesses, some operating 24 hours a day with unrestricted noise levels.

Councillors are inclined to approve the proposal. One of the businesses, Asda, has expressed concern its operations might disturb residents. Planners cannot ban noise complaints – if the houses and apartments are built, Asda could face orders to be quiet.

The decision is complicated, with some genuine difficulties. But it seems odd that housing can be approved beside main roads and motorways in Northern Ireland, with lorries thundering past around the clock, when a supermarket loading bay is unacceptable.