Talks in Cardiff between community figures and politicians from both sides of the divide in the North and the PSNI have been described as “frank and respectful” but no major breakthrough to ease community tensions ahead of the Twelfth is expected.
Almost 30 participants and six senior police officers took part in the two days of talks in the Welsh capital in a bid to iron out issues between the Police Service of Northern Ireland and communities on both sides of the divide.
The Orange Order boycotted the talks saying they were not about parades issues. Some senior Orange Order sources have privately described the initiative as “pointless”.
However the Chief Constable Matt Baggott fully supports the initiate which was jointly organised with the University of Ulster.
Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton said that the talks were about policing, not parading. “What it is not about is negotiation on any specific parade or even the parading issue. This is about the police response to all of that rather than the issues themselves”, he said.
Nevertheless representatives from the adjoining Nationalist Ardoyne and Unionist Shankill areas were involved in the talks along with Unionist Party, DUP and Sinn Fein and SDLP representatives.
Despite the PSNI’s denial that the initiative was designed to resolve parades issues the force faces a major potential difficulty on the Twelfth morning in north Belfast at Ardoyne. Last year the Parades Commission which oversees parade applications imposed a four o’clock afternoon curfew on the local District Lodge to pass the flashpoint Ardoyne shops front.
Orangemen say they will not comply with a similar directive this year if one is imposed.
A stalemate situation could result in thousands of Orangemen and bandsmen from across Belfast locked in a standoff at police lines in the Clifton Street area where the Twelfth parade will assemble before proceeding to Edenderry in south Belfast.