Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence


  Thank you for your letter of 10 March 2000 informing me of the terms of reference of the inquiry into the Parades Commission instituted by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.

  The inquiry proposes to examine the operation of the Commission, and to consider, in the light of the conclusions of the Northern Ireland Office's review of the Commission, how its effectiveness might be enhanced. In conducting its review, the Northern Ireland Office requested the Commission's comments on the following terms of reference:

    "within the existing framework of law and structures, and taking account of views received from interested parties and the experience of the marching seasons over the last two years, to consider

    —  possible ways of achieving even greater acceptance of the handling of contentious parades;

    —  the arrangements for mediation".

  I attach a memorandum from the Chairman which outlines the background to the establishment of the Commission, explains its procedures, and summarises its experience operating as an independent statutory authority over the past two years. The memorandum sets out the Commission's recommendations to the Northern Ireland Office Review in the key areas of engagement, mediation, and community development. The memorandum supports these recommendations by explaining the Commission's strategy to date and how it proposes to develop this strategy in the future. It also identifies steps which the Commission proposes to take in the light of the review's conclusions in relation to the Commission's educational remit, and affirms its position on the introduction of human rights legislation.

5 April 2000

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