Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast Gerry Kelly was today joined at a press conference in Belfast by party colleagues Alex Maskey, Cathy Stanton and Carol ni Cuilan to review the aftermath of the Parades Commission decision to force a Orange Parade through three nationalist areas of North Belfast.
Mr Kelly said:
"Sinn Féin, local residents, local community activists and clergymen worked for weeks trying to ensure that this very difficult situation did not end up in violent conflict on the streets. The situation was created by the demands of the Orange Order to march along this route and the Parades Commission acceding to that demand. Both the morning and the evening protests were peaceful and this we hoped would set the tone for the return leg.
" On the return leg there was some minor stone throwing and insults exchanged between some young people and the marchers. This was manageable. However the PSNI immediately intervened with a baton charge and water cannon. This action disempowered the local residents stewards and for a time control was lost. This is not what we wanted to see happen, nor was it what the residents of that area wanted to see happen.
"However the fundamental problem is being sustained. That is unionist and loyalist demands to dominate nationalist neighbourhoods by forcing unwanted sectarian anti-catholic parades through them.
"The hit and run decisions of the Parades Commission is part of the problem. Bad decisions which others are left to manage.
"The consistent rewarding of the Orange Order in North Belfast for refusing to enter into a process of dialogue which seeks to resolve this issue is untenable. It is unacceptable. It is a recipe for ongoing tension, disharmony and conflict.
"The most remarkable aspect of last nights events in North Belfast is that lives were not lost. This society cannot afford to continue with this situation. The Orange Order need to begin to show some respect for nationalist residents. They need to engage in genuine and meaningful dialogue to resolve the issue of contentious marches in North Belfast and indeed elsewhere." ENDS