Written Answers. - Northern Ireland Issues.

Jimmy Deenihan


28 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the discussions which have taken place to avoid a further confrontation at Drumcree in July 2002. [15033/02]

Each year, a number of contentious parades in Northern Ireland require the attention of the Parades Commission because of failure to reach agreement between the marchers and local residents. The Orange Order parade in Drumcree on the first Sunday in July is undoubtedly the most high-profile of these parades.

The Government has maintained a consistent approach to the question of contentious parades. It is based on the need for mutual respect, dialogue and respect for the law, including the rights of local communities. We continue to believe the resolution of contentious parades lies through local engagement and agreement. There have been some positive examples in recent years, particularly between the Apprentice Boys and local residents in Derry. However, mediation initiatives in other areas have failed to resolve disputes surrounding parades, most notably in Portadown where no agreed and mutually-acceptable solution has yet been found to the Drumcree dispute.
The Parades Commission has appealed to both sides to commence direct contacts but, as yet, no agreed talks process has emerged. The most recent mediation effort, undertaken by South African lawyer Brian Currin, ended last November despite his unstinting efforts from May 2000 onwards. A direct and genuine dialogue between representatives of the local residents group and the Portadown District Lodge would be an important and positive development. While the Parades Commission can "manage" contentious parades, disputes will only be properly resolved in the long-term through such local engagement.
The continuing disagreements over Drumcree and other contentious parades – and their negative impact on community relations – are a cause of concern to the Government as this year's marching season approaches. We are keeping in close contact with the British Government and other interested parties to monitor the situation in the lead-up to Drumcree Sunday on 7 July next.