David Ford said: “As we come into the main marching season, I would urge all those taking part in the parades or parade related protests to always respect the rule of law. A good start has been made this year with significant parades passing off peacefully and we should build on that positivity.
“Across Northern Ireland many hundreds of parades pass off every year without incident and requiring minimal police presence. We have also seen instances of protests being cancelled, which has helped reduce tensions.
“While many areas have seen a measure of accommodation regarding parades, it is regrettable that in a few areas in Belfast a heavy police presence has been needed in past years to deal with unrest. I hope that this year the officers can be stood down as soon as the parade disperses and people go home to enjoy the holiday season.
“This is a time for cool heads and strong leadership. Anyone with influence across the community should work to ensure the next few weeks are remembered for good news stories, not scenes that blacken our name around the world.
“In recent times we have had significant events, such as the Tall Ships, building a positive image for Northern Ireland. Nothing should be done to undermine the benefits those events bring to the economy and therefore our communities.”