Marching to a different tune? Unionism, and the “graduated response.”

The outcome of a Parades Commission decision regarding an application for a “religious service” to walk past Ardoyne shops to commemorate the Ulster Covenant could have “serious implications” for politics, policing and parades, Vixens has learned.

The Commission are to give their decision on 17th September on what they have termed a “sensitive” application on their website. No. 1 District Orange Lodge have applied to walk at 14:15pm on 28th September, along with three flute bands, two of which have been banned from making the return journey up the Crumlin Road in recent years.

The previous bans led to the setting up of the self named “Civil Rights Camp” at Twaddell.  Vixens understands that if the Parades Commission agree to allow the march, the Loyalist Community would then consider whether the camp, which has cost over 9 million pounds to police to date, has become “surplus to requirements.”  While this has not been officially confirmed, it is understood to be one of the options being discussed at present.

First Minister Peter Robinson met with the Secretary of State Teresa Villiers earlier today, in what has been described as a “tense meeting”, ahead of round table discussions with the main leaders of Loyalism and Unionism this afternoon.  Those members who attended the latter meeting are understood to have discussed eight steps of the “graduated response”, first indicated in a statement by Unionist and Loyalist Representatives on 3rd July.

Loyalist grassroots are reported to have become increasingly agitated at unionist leaders in recent weeks, and have privately challenged them to take action.  Vixens spoke to a number of unionist and loyalist sources today, and understand that the first steps to the “graduated response” would be determinable by the response of the Parades Commission to the application to march on 17th, which is already being referred to by our sources as “a critical day”.  If permission is not granted, sources tell us that a two tier step would be implemented almost immediately.  If actioned as intended, the impact to policing, the Department of Justice strands, and politics would be affected greatly.  We can confirm that the potential ramifications of action throughout Northern Ireland, would almost certainly impact on an already shaky political institutions; and the nature of the relationship with the current Secretary of State, who is currently facing calls for the establishment of a commission of enquiry into parades in North Belfast.

One thing is for certain – the issue of flashpoint parades remains at deadlock, and the next few weeks may prove crucial to the viability of the political process in its current form.


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