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Statement by Secretary of State, Dr. Mo Mowlam appealing for calm in run up to Drumcree 1998

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Text: Northern Ireland Office ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna
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Appeal by the Secretary of State for Calm in the run up to Drumcree 1998

The following is the text of the statement issued by the Secretary of State, Dr. Mo Mowlam on 30 June 1998, following the Parades Commission's decision to re-route the Drumcree Church Parade. The statement was issued after consultations with the Chief Constable and other security advisers.

"I want to appeal for calm and good sense to prevail as we approach the Drumcree parade. I know the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland share the hope that we will see dignified, peaceful and law abiding behaviour on all sides.

"The agreement reached in the political talks points to how the problems surrounding parades might be resolved. The key to that success was compromise. No one had to give up long held and cherished beliefs. But all were prepared to move from their ideal position to a point where agreement was possible.

"The agreement and subsequent developments point towards a future of hope and optimism. The parades issue must not be allowed to frustrate and set back that progress.

"We want to reaffirm today the Government's absolute commitment to, and support for, the Parades Commission and the police. Both have very difficult tasks, and deserve everyone's support in undertaking them. And I have complete confidence that both are fulfilling those tasks with independence, impartiality and common sense.

As Alistair Graham said, the fact that the Commission has had to make a determination on the Drumcree parade reflects a failure. It would have been much better if organisers and residents had been able before that point to reach a voluntary accommodation, respecting each other's rights and culture. But the determination does not mean that the chance of positive movement over Drumcree has now gone for good. There is still time to find an honourable way forward, and I hope that continuing opportunity could yet be seized.

"But in the meantime the Commission has, after very careful consideration, had to reach a decision which has the force of law. It is incumbent on everyone to respect that decision, and not to confront the police as they merely undertake their duty.

"We must not forget why the Commission was established in the first place. A key purpose was to remove the RUC from the 'no win' situation they were in under the previous system - where, whatever decision the police took, they were often accused of working to either a nationalist or unionist agenda. That decision-making function now belongs to the Parades Commission, not the police.

"Violence on the streets can serve the interests of no-one in Northern Ireland. I call on everyone who has a leadership role in Northern Ireland, particularly elected representatives, to encourage those with whom they have influence to act responsibly and avoid confrontation.

"I also commend the way in which the organisers of recent parades in Dunloy and North Belfast have respected the Commission's determinations and co-operated with the police, which enabled their processions to pass off peacefully and without incident. I urge the organisers of the Drumcree parade to act in a similar mature, responsible and law-abiding manner. I also call upon the residents of the Garvaghy Road to show restraint and flexibility, keeping open the possibility of accommodation.

"A number of contentious parades lie ahead. I would make a personal appeal, both to parade organisers and those who object to parades, to show a single-minded determination to reach local arrangements. With courage and initiative, I believe there can still be an honourable and successful resolution of these issues."

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