Page last updated at 22:30 GMT, Tuesday, 20 April 2010 23:30 UK

Mixed reaction to parades plans

Orange Order parade
There has been a mixed reaction to the plans for parades

There has been a mixed reaction from political parties to the proposals for a new way to deal with contentious parades in Northern Ireland which were published on Tuesday.

The blueprint includes plans for new bodies to replace the government-appointed Parades Commission.

It envisages a new focus on dialogue between rival groups to avoid violence seen in the past.

Nelson McCausland of the DUP welcomed the plans, saying it was the start of a new era for parading in Northern Ireland.

"This proposed Bill will change the current framework dealing with public assemblies, including parades and protests, across Northern Ireland," he said.

"It will replace the Parades Commission with a new framework that is fair and transparent and is based on human rights."

Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd also backed the proposals and said "for the first time in any legislation, the right to live free of sectarian harassment is enshrined and a legal definition put forward".

"The Loyal Orders will be legally bound by the code of conduct, as will any hangers on supporters, and their bands," he said.

"The adjudication body will be representative of the community and the power to make decisions rests with the full body."

However, Dolores Kelly of the SDLP has branded the parades proposals as "irresponsible" and said they would "only serve those who want to escalate tensions over parades".

"The DUP/Sinn Fein's folly in their proposals is to escalate a local dispute to a high political level - the Office of First and Deputy First Minister," she said.

"The DUP/Sinn Fein proposals invite people to make mischief both during the rundown of the Parades Commission and then again later."

Tom Elliott of the Ulster Unionists said the new document outlined an "even more unwieldy process" for contentious parades.

He said that instead of reducing the potential for disputes, Sinn Fein and the DUP "appeared intent on creating another mechanism to create division".

"Most democratic societies accept the right of lawful assembly and peaceful protest, but by creating the Parades Commission mark II the DUP and Sinn Fein are determined that Northern Ireland remains poles apart from the rest of the United Kingdom and Europe," he said.



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