Ardoyne parade decision: Villiers says she has 'no power' to intervene

Theresa Villiers has said Matt Baggott is confident about his ability to police the Ardoyne area on 12 July

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The Northern Ireland Secretary of State has said she has currently no power to intervene over the Parades Commission's decision on a flashpoint Orange Order parade in north Belfast.

The commission has ruled that the order cannot hold a return parade past Ardoyne shops on 12 July.

Theresa Villiers said she could only intervene if she received an application to do so from Chief Constable Matt Baggott.

She said she had not received one.

"The only power I have to intervene and override a Parades Commission determination is if I receive an application asking me to do that from the chief constable," Ms Villiers said.

"He has not sent me such an application and so I don't in this case have any power over the decision that has been made by the Parades Commission.

"He (the chief constable) certainly made it clear he had no intention of sending me such an application.

"The chief constable is very confident about his ability to police the situation."

The Northern Ireland assembly has been recalled to debate the Parades Commission ruling on the Orange Order parade.

The recall request was made by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

On Wednesday, the DUP's North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds was expelled from the Commons chamber after accusing Ms Villiers, of "deliberate deception".

Ms Villiers said she recognised the anger there was "in parts of his constituency" about the commission's decision.

She added that the commission was a "lawfully constituted authority and respect for the rule of law is vital".

"It would be incredibly damaging to Northern Ireland's image and reputation if scenes of violence blighted this year's 12 July parades," she said.

Two residents groups from the Ardoyne area of north Belfast have called off planned protests against the parade on 12 July.

The Crumlin and Ardoyne Residents' Association and the Greater Ardoyne Residents' Collective announced the move at a meeting on Wednesday night.

The commission has said Orangemen can walk on the stretch of the Crumlin Road in the morning, but not in the evening.

The ruling is that on the return parade, lodges will be stopped at the junction of Woodvale Road and Woodvale Parade. They have been prohibited from walking between that point and the junction of the Crumlin Road and Hesketh Road.

There has been serious violence at the Ardoyne shops in north Belfast in previous years after opposition to the 12 July Orange Order feeder parade in the area.

The Parades Commission is a quasi-judicial independent body that adjudicates on contentious marches in Northern Ireland.

It was set up in 1997, following years of sectarian tension and violence at the annual Drumcree parade in County Armagh.

The commissioners consider submissions from both parade organisers and those who object to marches. Parades Commission determinations are legally binding.

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