Northern Ireland

Nelson McCausland breaks silence on 'up-scaling' of protests

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Media captionNelson McCausland said protests should be peaceful and legal

Nelson McCausland has said any protest against a Parades Commission decision to stop Orangemen parading in north Belfast should be peaceful and legal.

The DUP minister added that he did not want to see people ending up with a criminal record.

A senior Belfast Orangeman said on Saturday that protests against the decision could be "up-scaled".

William Mawhinney made the comments at a protest rally over restrictions to a 12 July parade.

Mr McCausland broke his silence almost 48 hours after he was filmed standing beside Mr Mawhinney, who said protests could possibly even involve civil disobedience.

Pressed about what Mr Mawhinney had said, Mr McCausland said he saw that the Orangeman had clarified his remarks in a newspaper, saying whatever happened would be peaceful and legal.

Explanation

Asked what he thought the Orangeman had meant by civil disobedience, the social development minister said: "The exact detail of what he said should be put to him, but I do know that in a newspaper today he made his position clear when he said that any protest should be peaceful and legal and that's the right position everyone should be taking."

Asked what he thought "up-scaling" meant, he said: "There are various options I am sure he is looking at, but he has qualified that and explained that he meant everything, whether scaled up or not, should be peaceful and legal."

Asked if Mr Mawhinney had placed him in a difficult position he said: "The detail of what he meant he can explain, but the explanation he has given today is very clear, that people should be peaceful and legal, and I've no difficulty with that."

Asked if Mr Mawhinney had been wrong to say what he said, Mr McCausland replied: "Peaceful and legal that's what Billy Mawhinney means, and if that's not good enough for you, you may ask him to explain further."

The Orange Order told the BBC that Mr Mawhinney was not available for interview.

However, Winston Irvine, Progressive Unionist Party, who was also on the platform on Saturday said he believed Mr Mawhinney was "simply pointing out a number of options that people have open to themselves in any given situation of this nature".

"Let me clarify our position," he added.

"We want to see a resolution to this matter sooner rather than later. Our proposals for a morning parade to see the completion of the 12 July annual parade in north Belfast on a quiet Saturday morning takes five minutes of toleration.

"That is our proposal on the table, that is our position and we want people to respond positively to this."

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