THE Lord Mayor of Belfast has called for calm ahead of Monday’s planned protest in Belfast by the Orange Order, and insisted that the only way parades issues can be resolved is through dialogue and discussion.
Alliance Councillor Tom Ekin said:
“While everyone has the right to legal protest, with that right come important responsibilities. I have spoken to representatives of the Orange Order over the weekend and called on them to provide appropriate leadership and to exercise influence over supporters in a positive way, so that we can avoid violence.
“I am always prepared to meet with those involved to examine whether this issue cannot be handled in a different way. It would be unforgivable to fail to reach a peaceful accommodation, as too much effort has gone into making this Twelth period much quieter than in previous years.
“The dangers of peaceful protests getting out of hand and the problems created by ‘hangers on’ are well known and must be avoided if Belfast is going to continue to improve as a place to live in. Those who call for a protest have a responsibility to ensure that all those who attend remain peaceful.
“While the Order has every right to engage in peaceful and lawful protest if it feels aggrieved by the decisions of the Parades Commission, that does not extend to inhibiting the freedom of movement of thousands of law-abiding citizens.
“This summer started off peacefully, and the challenge to the Order and those who object to parades is to ensure that we end it the same way. I am also calling on all sections of our community who want to find future accommodation to start discussions early in September, so we can avoid a last minute crisis next year.”