Parades law needs to be reformed: Ford

An Alliance delegation led by Party Leader David Ford has had a meeting with the Secretary of State and called for action to be taken to deal with bonfires and illegal flags and to reform the law on the Parades Commission.

This followed a meeting with Mr Duncan McCausland, the Assistant Chief Constable for Belfast Region, which includes Antrim and Newtownabbey.

David Ford said:

“The recent court decision on the 12th July parade past Ardoyne has created a huge problem for the policing of potential public disorder involving the followers of parades and local residents.

“We have urged the Secretary of State to ensure that additional powers are given to the Parades Commission to deal with this matter. The only alternative is what happened at Ardoyne: the Police Service is given the task of dealing with a public order problem.

“Alliance fully supported the setting up of the Parades Commission, to remove the responsibility for such decisions from the police. The current position is potentially dangerous for relationships between the police and sections of the community.

“We also urged the Secretary of State to ensure that there is co-ordinated action between all government agencies to deal with issues like flags and bonfires.

“Recent actions by the police to remove flags across Northern Ireland have been very welcome. They follow the Holywood court case last year. I have welcomes actions by the Police to remove flags which were creating tension in both Antrim and Newtownabbey Districts: but there is still work to be done.

“However, other bodies – notably the Roads Service – also have responsibilities and it is up to Ministers to ensure that their officials play their role in dealing with this problem.

“Similarly, those bonfires which damage public property and cause great nuisance and health hazard, must be tackled on a multi-agency basis. It is not responsible government to wait until problems occur and the leave it to the Police Service and the Fire Brigade to deal with the consequences.

“There is – rightly – considerable concern in our are a about proposals for handing asbestos at waste sites in Antrim and Crumlin. I fully support those who are concerned about such threats to human health and the environment.

“But it is no more acceptable to allow tyres to be burnt on bonfires. throwing out dioxins which are proven to cause cancer. It is time for the DoE, and the agencies which own land where bonfires are sited, to work with the police to deal with these problems.”

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