Northern Ireland

Orange Order criticises Theresa Villiers over parade dispute panel move

Theresa Villiers
Image caption Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has been criticised by the Orange Order

The Orange Order has accused the Secretary of State Theresa Villiers of showing contempt towards it and unionist parties over a parading issue.

The Northern Ireland Office said this week it would not be setting up a panel to examine a parade dispute in north Belfast.

A panel was announced in October.

It was to look at ways of resolving deadlock over a contentious Orange Order march along part of the Crumlin Road.

An Orange Order spokesperson said that "Grand Lodge is extremely concerned and will be meeting with unionist political representatives at the earliest opportunity after the Christmas holidays to discuss the seriousness of the situation, created by a weak Secretary of State".

In its statement, the Northern Ireland Office said it remained "fully committed" to seeking a resolution to the situation in north Belfast.

"When we announced the terms of reference for a panel on parading in north Belfast, we stated that a key principle was that it must command cross community support," it said.

"The aim of the panel was mediation and dialogue, but effective mediation cannot take place without meaningful engagement from both sides.

"It has become apparent that there is insufficient support for the proposed panel among some of those most closely involved in the dispute. This is reflected, to varying degrees, on both sides of the community. We have therefore decided, on balance, not to go ahead with setting up the panel."

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