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28 January 2010 Edition

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No Orange veto

There was deep disappointment across Ireland on Wednesday as negotiations at Hillsborough Castle failed to resolve the continuing impasse around the transfer of powers over policing and justice from Britain to the North of Ireland.
The decision by the DUP, at the behest of the Orange Order, to make the abolition of the Parades Commission a precondition for the transfer of powers made reaching an agreement extremely difficult. Many observers are now speculating as to whether this was the intention.
The two governments in their statement make it clear that what is required is the implementation of the Good Friday and St. Andrews Agreements. That is to be welcomed.
Sinn Féin went into these negotiations against a backdrop of three years of default by the DUP in relation to their St. Andrews Agreement commitments. Republicans have displayed extraordinary patience over the past 18 months as we sought to persuade the DUP to be partners on progress. In recent days the two governments have joined that effort.
Sinn Féin’s record on parades is clear – we have sought and encouraged local agreement between residents and marching orders. Local accommodation and solutions must include the prospect that no parade is the eventual and agreed outcome.
We recognise that support from all sides of the community has the potential to bring about solutions where there are difficulties.
This has happened in some areas and there have been local solutions. No one local solution is automatically transferable to any other area but local dialogues and local leadership are the common factors where progress has been achieved. That is what offers the best prospect of a local solution.
The precondition set by the DUP and the Orange Order that the Parades Commission must be abolished as some sort of payoff for the transfer of policing and justice powers is unacceptable and unattainable and not a solution to the complex issues relating to parades.
In must be remembered that the Irish and British governments are not referees in this situation. They are the guarantors of the St. Andrews and Good Friday Agreements. That is the only acceptable role for them to play.
Sinn Féin is disappointed at the lack of progress in these negotiations. The party now intends to study the government statement. What is absolutely certain at this point however is that republicans will not allow citizens’ rights and entitlements be made subject to a unionist veto or an Orange Order precondition.

An Phoblacht
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