Written Answers. - Northern Ireland Parades.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

56 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the discussions, if any, his Department has had with groups in Northern Ireland in relation to disputed parade routes. [8243/98]

I believe that all Members of this House will agree that every effort should be made to avoid a difficult marching season this year. It is important that the people of Northern Ireland are spared the difficulty which has marked parades in recent years. It is equally important that the outcome of the talks process in which we are all engaged is not threatened by a contentious and troublesome marching season.

Successive Governments have put forward views and proposals on the parades issue through the framework of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and we will continue to do so for as long as is necessary. At the most recent meeting of the Conference in Dublin on 5 March, I raised my concerns with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland about the prospects for this years marching season. I also raised the negative reaction in the nationalist community to the appointments to the new parades commission.
I met earlier this year with residents groups from the Garvaghy Road in Portadown and from the Lower Ormeau Road in Belfast. I am open to meeting representatives of these groups and other groups in the future, if requested, and if I feel it could prove helpful to resolving conflicts over parades. The Parades Commission has the potential to play a useful role. To succeed, it is essential that the commission approaches its task in an evenhanded way and is fair and impartial in its decisions.
I assure the Deputy that I will be closely following this issue closely in the period ahead. My Department will also continue to monitor the issue and to maintain contact with interested parties.