13 July 2005

Legal loophole ‘facilitated’ exploit

Daily Ireland

Connla Young

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The PSNI was criticised yesterday for helping loyalist bands exploit a Parades Commission loophole.
An all-day standoff took place yesterday in the nationalist village of Dunloy, Co Antrim. Nationalist protesters blocked a road, barring Orangemen travelling through the town to attend a wreath-laying ceremony at a local church cemetery.
The protest arose after a local loyalist band struck up a series of Orange tunes from a standing position in the town’s main street. A Parades Commission determination had earlier prohibited the band from playing music in the area.
Currently the Parades Commission’s remit includes only moving processions. Therefore, determinations do not extend to any band or group of people remaining in a stationary position.
Philip McGuigan, Sinn Féin assembly member for North Antrim, said locals had been alerted to the loophole after an incident in the nationalist town last year.
“There is no problem with the Orangemen going to the church to lay the wreath. They have been doing that for the last eight years.
“But there is a loophole in the law and they played music in an area that the Parades Commission said they should not. That has angered locals, and the fact is Orangemen have acted outside the spirit of the Parades Commission determination.
“The only people who came out of this with any dignity were the people of Dunloy. The PSNI facilitated the Orangemen to exploit the loophole. They were told that it was a public order matter and they did not intervene but they were happy to facilitate Orangemen rubbing nationalist noses in it. People in the town are very angry”.
The protest was eventually abandoned after day-long negotiations between local representatives and senior PSNI officers. At one point, heavily armed riot police moved in to remove nationalists who had blocked a road in the town.
In a choreographed compromise, the PSNI removed 30 nationalist protesters from the road under the watchful eye of senior Sinn Féin negotiator Martin McGuinness, the Mid-Ulster MP.
SDLP North Antrim assembly member Seán Farren called for talks to end future disputes in Dunloy.
“This situation, like all others, has got to be resolved by dialogue. Confrontation can be no way forward. What is needed is for all sides to sit down and hear concerns and proposals from villagers in the area as well as hearing the case of the parade organiser. We need everyone working together to seek an accommodation which reflects the concerns on all sides. Sit-downs, standoffs and confrontation are no way forward. They only end up in police action against one side or the other, which inevitably makes resolution all the more difficult,” Mr Farren said.

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