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Statement by Tánaiste on this weekend’s parades related violence in Belfast

Northern Ireland Peace Process, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, Press Releases, Northern Ireland, 2013

Once again, I want to condemn those responsible for the violence which occurred on the streets of Belfast this weekend.

The attacks on the police which have led to over forty PSNI officers being injured are simply unacceptable and appalling.

The determinations of the Parades Commission are legally binding and respect for the rule of law must be upheld.

In my conversations with Secretary of State Villiers and Minister Ford over the weekend I expressed the Irish Government’s appreciation for the work of the PSNI in very difficult circumstances.

I believe that most members of the Orange Order would not condone the sectarianism we witnessed in recent days, be that the playing of sectarian tunes outside a catholic church or the burning of the Irish flag. 

It’s important to remember that over the period of the 12th there were almost 600 parades.  The great majority of these passed off peacefully.  But where individuals who march behind the banners of an organisation commit blatant acts of sectarianism, it is simply not acceptable for that organisation to try to explain or condone it – or even to ignore it.  Its leaders and its members must clearly condemn it.

Northern Ireland’s reputation was greatly enhanced by last month’s G8 meeting.  The scenes we witnessed this weekend put this good work at risk.

Political efforts on all sides must now focus on ensuring that these scenes are never repeated. I hope that when the Assembly meets tomorrow its members will unite in their firm condemnation of sectarian behaviour, from whatever side it comes.  

I am hopeful.   The Northern Ireland Assembly has committed to all party talks on difficult outstanding issues including parades.  Former US Special Envoy, Richard Haass has agreed to chair talks in the autumn.  I know that the US administration is fully committed to support this process, as are the British and Irish Governments. 

Those talks can build on new and courageous initiatives at community level, not only in those interface areas which experienced violence this weekend but across Northern Ireland.

We now have the framework and the opportunity to put the terrible scenes we witnessed over the weekend behind us.  What is now required is the leadership and determination to make these scenes history.