NIO did a ‘dirty deal’

Responsibility for the decision to force this week’s Orange marches through nationalist areas of North Belfast and Lurgan rests firmly with the British Secretary of State, a leading republican said yesterday.

Speaking at a press conference, North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly said “a dirty deal” had been done and he laid the blame for this week’s unrest squarely with NIO ministers – led by Paul Murphy.

Mr Kelly also said that the conduct of the PSNI copperfastened Sinn Féin’s determination not to become involved in policing structures until proper accountability mechanisms are in place.
Chaos erupted on Monday evening after members of the Orange Order and hundreds of hangers-on were protected by the PSNI as they walked past nationalist homes at Ardoyne, Mountainview and the Dales – the latter group in defiance of a Parades Commission ruling.
Many of the loyalist hangers-on were drunk, hurling sectarian abuse and carrying flags – including UDA banners.

After the loyalists passed up the Crumlin Road, fierce fighting ensued between the British Army and PSNI patrols and nationalist residents who had been corralled into Ardoyne to allow the hangers-on to pass.

Only the calming influence of senior republicans and dozens of local activists managed to prevent the riots spiralling out of control.

The following day an identical decision by the PSNI to facilitate the breaching of a Parades Commission ruling in Lurgan caused further outrage across the nationalist community.
Slamming the actions of the PSNI and British government yesterday, Mr Kelly revealed that he had been in direct telephone contact with British minister Ian Pearson and the NIO’s Political Director from the centre of the trouble in Ardoyne on Monday evening. He stressed the political dimension behind the PSNI’s actions.

“The securocrat agenda is in the ascendancy,” he said. “There was a deal done.

“I know that earlier on Monday some of the PSNI people on the ground were saying – not to me – that there was a deal done.

“But let me be clear about this: the buck stops with Paul Murphy. This decision was made at a higher level than the PSNI.

“The PSNI became the element or the mechanism for pushing this (decision) through.”
Reacting to the fall-out from this week’s PSNI actions, Mr Kelly alluded to recent comments by former Belfast Mayor, Martin Morgan, and Larne DPP member Danny O’Connor, that the SDLP should reconsider their involvement in policing.

“We have a position, which we think is right, on the PSNI and the Policing Board. The SDLP, in my opinion, and I would argue in the opinion of the electorate, made the wrong decision.

“Some of their own people are saying they should rethink their position and obviously we would agree with that.”

The leading republican also rejected any suggestion that meaningful dialogue happened in the run-up to the Ardoyne march.

And he hit out at what he described as “double standards” on the part of unionist politicians who are sitting on a community parades forum alongside loyalist paramilitaries.
“I will talk to anyone – which includes the three paramilitary organisations in this forum – if I thought that it would help the situation.

“But what about the DUP riding two horses here? There is a contradiction in the DUP’s position where they are sitting down and talking to paramilitary organisations and still not showing enough leadership to talk about these situations with Sinn Féin.

“We’re ready to talk to anyone, but if you’re asking has dialogue taken place on this issue, then the answer is no,” he said.

Journalist:: Jarlath Kearney

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