Northern Ireland

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 12:40 pm on 16th July 2013.

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Photo of Jeffrey M. Donaldson Jeffrey M. Donaldson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Equality), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Defence) 12:40 pm, 16th July 2013

Thank you for those kind words, Mr Speaker. I am sure that my right hon. Friend Mr Dodds will have heard them as he recovers this afternoon. I also thank the Secretary of State, the Opposition spokesman, the Chairman of the Select Committee, Mr Robertson, and all hon. Members who have spoken to me and my colleagues in recent days for their kind comments. I am confident that my right hon. Friend will be back with us before long.

We on this side of the House unequivocally condemn the violence that has occurred in recent days, and in the past, on the whole issue of parades. No violence can be justified in these circumstances. We stand firmly for the rule of law. Does the Secretary of State agree that it is important that the rule of law is applied fairly and impartially, and that whether it is a loyalist rioter or a Sinn Fein MLA obstructing the police in the course of their duty, the law must be applied equally, fairly and impartially?

We pay tribute to the police officers who have been injured and wish them a speedy recovery. We support the police, just as we support the rule of law. We do, however, have issues regarding the consistent lack of intervention by the police in the Short Strand area of east Belfast, where they have failed to protect people lawfully processing on the public highway. We need to examine why adequate protection is not afforded to those parading peacefully and lawfully. That is not, in any sense, to condone violence resulting from people being put under attack.

We have grave concerns about the operation of the Parades Commission. There is no doubt that the clear perception among many people in Northern Ireland is that the decision on the Ardoyne parade rewarded the violence of the previous year, to which the Secretary of State alluded in her remarks. That violence included dissident republicans opening fire on the police in the Ardoyne, and a huge of amount of petrol bombs and other devices being thrown at the police. We must not have a situation, in any circumstances, where violence is seen to be rewarded.

Finally, on the all-party working group, in which I have been asked to participate on behalf of my party, we are committed to finding ways forward on all of these contentious issues, including parades. However, may I say to the Secretary of State that if a shared future is to mean anything, it has to include shared space? If we have a situation in Northern Ireland where there are no-go areas, where one side of the community is not welcome, that is not a shared future and not shared space.