Tony McCusker, Chair of the Community Relations Council, says:
‘Tension around parades in Northern Ireland is not new. But much work has been done throughout the year, and over previous years, to avoid a return to the futile scenes of violent confrontation and destruction which have so damaged local communities at this time of year in the past.
In recent weeks and months we have seen a number of symbolic gestures of reconciliation and peaceful partnership at a public level. These are important. What is needed now however is a clear commitment by our political and civic leaders to translate these gestures into practical and positive change on the ground. The continuing absence of a meaningful good relations strategy at the heart of government makes it difficult to energise and drive forward local initiatives and to create local conditions conducive to dialogue. Those who refuse to engage constructively with others on issues of parades and flags need to be challenged by political and civic leaders if we are to avoid the mayhem which threatens to drag us back to the past.
Violent confrontation around parades undermines the goodwill that has been so painfully built up over many years and leaves deep scars in local communities. Above all, it undermines the economic future of people across Northern Ireland. It is vitally important that we build a new culture of real tolerance and openness, in which the celebrations of some are not interpreted as the triumphalism over others and in which tolerance and generosity are the dominant themes. This will be a vital dimension of any new policy on cohesion, sharing and integration to tackle sectarianism.’