Wales to host Northern Ireland parade talks

Northern Ireland police, politicians and community representatives are to hold talks in Wales in a bid to resolve tensions around parading.

The talks have been organised by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, in conjunction with the University of Ulster.

The PSNI said the meeting, in Cardiff next weekend, will discuss a range of issues around policing in Belfast.

The talks were supposed to be private but news of them had begun to leak out.

Chief Constable Matt Baggott said that police were working towards a trouble-free July parading season.

'Consensus'

"This is very much around local relationship-building," he said.

Start Quote

The recent flag protests in Belfast and the impact this may have on the forthcoming parades and protests in Belfast this summer have become serious matters for everyone concerned with the future.”

End Quote PSNI statement

"It's something I think we should be doing and an overwhelmingly good thing to do - if we enter into that season and we've done everything we can to improve those relationships and reach some degree of consensus and accommodation."

He refused to confirm whether or not the Orange Order would be attending the talks. He said the guest list was being handled by assistant chief constables.

"I would not have a problem with anybody being there from the orders, from the faith community, from local politicians, community representatives," Mr Baggott said.

"If we can, by tweaking, reach a place where people have greater consensus and we end up without problems in July that would be fabulous and that is what we are working towards."

'Community tension'

In a statement, the PSNI said: "The recent flag protests in Belfast and the impact this may have on the forthcoming parades and protests in Belfast this summer have become serious matters for everyone concerned with the future.

"Given the critical role played by the police in our communities, our discussion will focus on the issues facing policing in Belfast and on identifying ways of sustaining a broad base of support for policing and strengthening community-based approaches."

The statement added that talks would "explore current community feelings towards the police in Belfast from across the community".

"The weekend will also identify actions and understandings to sustain relationships between communities and the police during periods of heightened community tension," it said.

The initiative follows public criticism in recent years by senior police officers that politicians have essentially failed to tackle the issue of contentious parades in the winter months, and allowed tensions to spill onto the streets in summer.

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