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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 July, 2005, 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK
'Scary Twelfth' throws up challenges
Gareth Gordon
By Gareth Gordon
BBC Northern Ireland political correspondent

It was a scary Twelfth of July. But only in Northern Ireland will we think first of the blast bombs of Ardoyne and not the much more deadly ones of London and the revelation that young suicide bombers delivered them.

As if to confirm our place in the second division of the new world (dis)order, the scenes from north Belfast barely made the national television news.

The angry young men of Ardoyne were no match for the angry young men from west Yorkshire responsible for the carnage in the underground and the Number 30 bus in Tavistock Square.

Violence erupted in Ardoyne on 12 July
Violence erupted in Ardoyne on 12 July

Not even the use of blast bombs and plastic baton rounds in north Belfast and the discovery of a roadside bomb in Armagh will change that.

The effect within the bubble of Northern Ireland politics, however, could be a very different thing.

On one hand the claim that dissident republicans were behind the violence - and that senior Sinn Fein figures appeared to be doing what they could to prevent trouble - will ease the fears of some.

But not those with whom Sinn Fein will have to deal if there is ever to be a political settlement.

One senior DUP source said: "The problem is if the Provos weren't responsible for what happened then what use are they in terms of the overall situation.

"And if they were involved and are hiding behind this cloak then what does that say about their commitment to exclusively peaceful means.''

'Peacefully parading'

DUP MP Gregory Campbell made it clear on Radio Ulster's Inside Politics programme that the events in Ardoyne will make it even more difficult to reach a deal.

He said: ''Let's say the (IRA) statement comes, and let's say there is the usual media rush to try to proclaim this as a tremendous move by them, and we await a testing period of time to establish that they have gone out of business.

"And let's assume that over the winter things are much quieter than they presently are.

"Does anybody seriously think that in a period of time coming up to June and July of next year, if we go through all of this and republican elements are throwing more blast bombs at Orange marchers who are peacefully parading; that petrol bombs are flying in Londonderry or elsewhere; people are just going to say well the IRA have gone away and really this is just some sort of non-descript event that occurred and it's a blip - don't worry about it. That's ludicrous.

Therefore the lesson of this conversation has to be that what worked in Derry or elsewhere is when people sit down and talk to each other all of our problems can be satisfactorily addressed
Alex Maskey
Sinn Fein

''There will be very serious repercussions for political discussions whenever - if ever - they take place, whether its this winter or next winter and we have to solve this parading issue as part of the overall settlement.''

Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey told the same programme: ''When Gregory talks about having to sort out the issue of parading, he's absolutely 100% right and hits the nail on the head.

"Because all of these matters still have to be resolved regardless of what the IRA may or may not say in the time ahead.

''Therefore the lesson of this conversation has to be that what worked in Derry or elsewhere is when people sit down and talk to each other all of our problems can be satisfactorily addressed.''

'Pointless exercise'

The DUP leader Ian Paisley also appeared to up the ante in his Twelfth speech in Portglenone.

He said: "There must be a complete disbandoning (sic) of the IRA lock, stock and barrel. And I want to see that arsenal of blood weapons destroyed and I want you to see it and we demand it must be transparent.

"We are not looking for one photograph. We are looking for every photograph we can get, to see that it is done and done forever.''

That was not available last December - how likely is it now?
Ian Paisley said "arsenal of blood weapons" must be destroyed
Ian Paisley said "arsenal of blood weapons" must be destroyed

The guessing game about an IRA statement appears to be an increasingly pointless exercise.

First it would come in June. It didn't. Then it would probably come by the middle of July after the marching season climaxed. Not so far it hasn't.

Some think it may be September, when minds usually turn to negotiations so as to turn the heat up on the DUP at a time of maximum advantage.

That might be right too (though the DUP seem fairly well insulated) but the truth is no-one outside a fairly select bunch of republican leaders know and they are not giving much away.

There are other questions thrown up by the continuing problems surrounding the Twelfth on Ardoyne.

Given Sinn Fein claims that the PSNI overreacted to the violence of Ardoyne, how would a similar situation be handled if and when the party finally signs up to policing.

Soon newspaper adverts will invite applications from people wishing to become members of a new Parades Commission whose period in office begins in December.

The present chairman, Tony Holland, is understood to have indicated he does not wish to stand again, as have some other commission members.

Whoever replaces them will face the same old headaches.

More and more it appears an answer will not be found to the problem of politics without an answer being found to the problem of parades.




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