Examination of witness (Questions 60 -
WEDNESDAY 3 MAY 2000
60. In respect of the Lower Ormeau Parade, and
then your determination, you indicated that you consulted with
the police and you were aware of the very real danger of serious
public disorder should the parade proceed. I understand that the
Commission was also advised by the RUC in respect of the parade
in Kilkeel that should they permit the parade to follow the full
route past the church there was a risk to public order. Yet, the
Commission decided that the parade should proceed in Kilkeel,
against the advice of the police, and used the advice of the police
in respect of the Lower Ormeau Parade to justify the decision
it had taken. How do you make that judgment? How does the Commission
decide that the risk to public order in one place is different?
There was, as we know from the media coverage public disorder
in Kilkeel as a result, so the police's advice to the Commission
was well founded as it turned out. How do you make that judgment
as to whether the police advice in one area is somehow qualitatively
different from the police advice in another?
(Mr Holland) I cannot answer about what happened at
Kilkeel, all I can tell you about is this. Where you have the
same advice, if you like, as you have been notified from the police,
there are other circumstances you will take into account. I cannot
tell you, as I sayfor the reason that I was not present
when the decision was madeas to how the members of the
Commission who were there, what their thought processes were.
All I can say to you is this, that the advice that we receive
from the police sometimes will be the same and sometimes will
be slightly different. It appears from what you have told us just
now that it was identical, although I have not got a copy of the
reports from the police in each case, but there are other circumstances
you take into account besides that, having regard to what the
statutory implications of Section 8 are.
61. Let us talk about another factor impacting
on community relations. In your determination on the Lower Ormeau
Parade of 24 April, you were concerned about the possible impact
on community relations of permitting the parade to go ahead and
that was again a factor in reaching the decision to ban the parade.
Yet in Kilkeel, being aware of the potential impact on community
relations and, in fact, in the determination making special mention
of the impact on the families of victims who had latterly made
representations to you, you still permitted the parade to go ahead.
The impact on community relations in Kilkeel as a result of the
parade and the unrest that followed has been, to say the least,
very negative. Again, it appears there is an inconsistency between,
on the one hand, desiring to safeguard community relations in
the Lower Ormeau and disregarding the impact on community relations
in permitting the parade to go ahead in Kilkeel.
(Mr Holland) On the face of it I would agree with
that suggestion. I cannot tell you what was in the minds of the
Commissioners who made the Kilkeel decision, all I can tell you
is that when we made the decision about the Lower Ormeau Road
I gave an indication of what was in my mind. The impact on community
relations is important, as is the view of the police, as are other
factors, and you make a balancing decision at the end of it. You
cannot achieve, and will never achieve, some kind of purist consistency
from one decision to the other, as I suspect you are trying to
suggest we should seek to achieve. What we can try to do is to
make a decision in each case that reflects our concerns and takes
into account the concerns of both the parade organisers and the
community at the time we make that decision. Sometimes we will
take a particular view about police warnings perhaps more strongly
than at other times, but you are going to end up with a balancing
judgment. It will be very easy thereafter to have hindsight or
to gain say what should have been done. I believe that the decisions
that have been referred to were correct decisions and I stand
by them. I am sorry I cannot give you more information about the
Kilkeel one because I was not there and, therefore, I cannot answer
the question you are asking which is really how do they balance
one against the other.
Chairman: We have been caught by the division
bell. Will you share with us how much more you have got, Mr Donaldson?
Mr Donaldson: A couple more questions.
Chairman: I think if you have got a couple more
questions we do not want in any way to limit or to control Mr
Holland's answers, we had probably better break for the division.
The Committee was suspended from 17.27 to
17.40 for a division in the House.
Chairman: We can resume. Mr Donaldson, I think
you have one brief question you want to ask winding up a particular
line of inquiry you have been following and then perhaps another
question after that.
62. Thank you, Mr Chairman. Staying on these
two parades, and the reason I am asking about these two parades
is because these are, as I understand it, the two main or more
controversial decisions you have taken since the new Commission
has come into being so I want you to understand why I am looking
(Mr Holland) I do understand that.
63. This issue of consultation in the determinations
you mentioned, in respect of the Lower Ormeau situation, though,
there has been a concern, and I have a concern about the extent
of the consultation and indeed in respect of Kilkeel in terms
of the impact on community relations, etcetera. For example, what
consultations have been held with residents in the Donegal Pass
area of the Lower Ormeau Road? I know that the judge summing up
in the judicial review in respect of the decision on the determination
on the Kilkeel parade was very critical of the Commission over
its lack of consultation, for example its failure to consult the
minister of Mourne Presbyterian Church, the former Moderator of
the Church about the fact that the parade was going to pass his
church when there is a memorial in the grounds of the church and
indeed the fact, although this could not have been known at the
time, that there was a funeral that took place on the day actually
added to the problems and the tensions. How do you determine how
much and to what extent consultation takes place with local communities
and what are the criteria for that?
(Mr Holland) We obviously want to consult as widely
as possible because anything that can improve upon the validity
of our decision has to be a good thing. I do regret actually what
happened at Kilkeel in relation to the funeral. That was one of
those unfortunate situations which arose which could not have
been anticipated and I fully understand the hurt that must have
caused. Kilkeel, as you say, went to judicial review and the decision
was upheld and I accept the judge's criticism of the lack of consultation
that you referred to. On that issue we tried to consult as widely
as possible. We have authorised officers who advise as to what
the flash points or areas of problem might be in that particular
community. We advertise of course the fact the parade is going
to take place. That will in itself produce comments from various
people. We try and make as wide a trawl as possible. We will not
always be successful and often timing is not on our side because
we do not always have the full 28 days although we usually do.
The answer is that anything we can do to improve our consultation
process has to be a good thing and we always listen to anybody
who wants to indicate to us how we can improve.
64. St Patrick's Day is always on 17 March,
Mr Holland, and therefore the Commission would have been aware
well in advance of the traditional parade that takes place in
Kilkeel and surely does it not indicate a problem with the quality
of the authorised officers that you are using that they did not
see fit to consult with the minister of the church in circumstances
they knew were controversial in a town like Kilkeel? After the
experiences you have had with taking decisions and consulting
on a wide variety of parades that is such an obvious thing to
do. Does the fact that that level of consultation was missed indicate
there is something wrong somewhere in terms of the approach of
the authorised officers?
(Mr Holland) I do not think I can draw that conclusion
although I can see why you might wish to. It may well be, for
whatever reason, that the minister obviously was not consulted
on that occasion but I have every confidence in the authorised
officers I have met over the last ten weeks. I have not seen a
weakness in them or anything that would cause them concern. If
I do I will obviously correct it.
65. Turning, Mr Chairman, to the parade at Drumcree,
which of course had been an on-going situation for a number of
years and pre-dates the Parades Commission, can you tell us, Mr
Holland, what active steps the Commission are taking to resolve
the situation at Drumcree?
(Mr Holland) First of all, we can only determine,
as our statutory objective, each application as it comes in and
each application has to be considered on an independent basis,
month by month, week by week, in the Drumcree case. We had noticed
obviously in the determinations that we have made since we came
into existence in February that there has been no attempt by the
Loyal Order to engage in any kind of dialogue in that area. But
in relation to the fact that circumstances have not changed week
by week we have made our determinations in the way we have. Looking
to the future I would rather not, if you do not mind, sir, in
this open forum, go into what steps we are thinking of taking
and may be involved in taking. I think to do so would be adverse
to everyone's interests.
66. That is a perfectly understandable. I can
also understand why Mr Donaldson is raising it.
(Mr Holland) I can understand why but I honestly do
believe it to go into the public domain at this stage would be
67. Can I ask you this, Mr Holland: given that
it is a task and remit of the Parades Commission to be, I suppose,
the primary body in Northern Ireland for helping to resolve the
parades issues, can you reassure the community in Northern Ireland
that the Parades Commission is doing something more than simply
making determinations about the weekly applications that come
in, that in fact there is now being put in place some kind of
strategy to address this problem because there is a concern abroad
in Northern Ireland that the dialogue that has taken place, and
there has been dialogue, has been driven by the Government and
indeed by the Prime Minister and his office and that the role
of the Parades Commission in resolving Drumcree in terms of looking
at a strategic approach rather than deal with determinations as
they come in, as you must of course do, has been minimal?
(Mr Holland) I can assure you that the Commission
is doing more than just determining the applications that come
in on a weekly basis and that we have Drumcree very much on our
minds. We are independent of the government totally and I would
not seek to suggest that the activities that we are about are
in any way involving the Government; they are not. The Drumcree
situation is, as you know full well, one that has been looked
at, picked up, unpicked and so on by a number of bodies in an
endeavour to sort it out and to come to some solution. I am not
optimistic that I am or the Commission is going to be any more
successful than previous activities in that area. Nevertheless,
we are trying to evolve a statutory duty that may well put a different
gloss on it. That is really all I want to say. I am not optimistic
about being successful this year although, on the other hand,
I am not pessimistic. Frankly at this stage I am biding my time
and crossing my fingers that the activities we have in mind might
produce some sort of solution. It would be futile to suggest after
ten weeks that I can produce a solution for Drumcree. In fact,
it would be quite irresponsible of me to suggest that I could.
I believe that it is vital that it is resolved for the well-being
of everyone in this. It is a running sore if I may speak as an
outsider in that context. It does no one any good, least of all
those people who live in Portadown.
Chairman: Given the fact that, as you will know,
we are capable of taking evidence in private in a manner in which
Mr Holland's words although known to us would not be on the record,
it would be sensible if we paused at this juncture in terms of
that particular line of inquiry. You still have a question, Dr
68. I have a general question which returns
to one earlier in the inquiry. Quite close to the start, you responded
to the Chairman on the question of whether you would like to see
a change in the legislation allowing you to look beyond the individual
cases in order to in some way develop package solutions. You said
at that stage you reserve your position basically?
(Mr Holland) Yes.
Dr Palmer: From time to time in your very patient
replies you have referred obliquely to that constraint. I wondered
if you might consider taking advantage of the option which was
mentioned by the Chairman at the start that you could contact
us again in due course with any further thoughts you might have.
I think we would all be interested before we completed our inquiry
into this matter if you let us know whether you think that would
(Mr Holland) I find that very helpful because in fact,
let me take a neutral expression, we will call the road Jones
Road; there is no road called Jones Road.
69. You have not heard of someone called David
(Mr Holland) We will call it X Road. Let us say X
Road is a very contentious area, changing demographic processes
have been continuous and there is a high tension which is responsive
to every political nuance in the Province. This is what I mean
by political evidence sometimes. When you look at disorder, the
political climate affects the question of whether disorder is
likely or not likely, in my view. Let's take X Road. It may be
that the solution for X Road parade would in fact be better resolved
over a five-year period if we could say on particular days in
a particular year, yes, there will be a parade, and on particular
days in other years there will not be a parade. There will be
a five-year deal, if I can put it like that. That may not be particularly
attractive to either party but it may be better than the continuous
poison of a particular conflict going on and on and on to the
community relations in that particular area which we do have great
concern about. That is an illustration of what I had in mind.
Dr Palmer: Thank you.
Chairman: Mr Robinson, I think you have a question
which might require a written response thereafter.
70. Mr Holland, you are aware, and it has been
read out by Mr Donaldson, that the remit is for the Committee
to examine the operation of the Parades Commission since its inception.
I recognise that leaves you in some difficulty because this question
concerns a period of time when you were not in your present post
and you may not therefore have the answer to hand but there should
be sufficient records for you to be able to provide the Committee
with an answer. In the submission we have received from the Loyal
Orange Institution of Ireland, they allege that on 25 April 1997
the Parades Commission had written to Grand Lodge seeking a nomination
from the Institution to provide expert advice on a Code of Conduct,
and that on 2 June the Grand Lodge confirmed that they were willing
to nominate two representatives to meet with the Parades Commission
on this specific issue. The Orange Institution then indicated
that the Code of Conduct was announced to be brought out in draft
form and it was almost ready for publication according to the
information the Institution received. So they wrote to the Parades
Commission on 13 October expressing surprise that it could be
ready for publication as they had not been invited to any meeting
in spite of the fact that they had confirmed that they were willing
to meet with the Commission. In a letter of 15 October
Chairman: I should reassure Mr Holland that
the whole of this transcript will subsequently be available.
Mr Robinson: On 15 October the Parades Commission
replied indicating that the two representatives would be consulted
after the draft publication was released. That never happened
either. It is just in the light of the fact you have been bemoaning
the fact that one of the institutions, namely the Grand Lodge,
has not been co-operating with the Commission, that it may be
interesting for you to know something of the history between the
Parades Commission and the Grand Lodge.
(Mr Holland) I find that question very interesting
actually. I was concerned because I had written since I took office
to the Orange Order suggesting I should have some engagement with
them and I have not had a reply. That may explain why if there
has been this hiccough or many hiccoughs in the past. Obviously
I cannot answer the question as to what happened at the time.
71. You will write to the Select Committee after
you have investigated it, will you?
(Mr Holland) I will do, of course.
72. Mr Holland, there is one last question it
would be helpful to know the answer to, if there is nobody else
in the Committee who has any final question they want to ask.
You quite properly alluded to the opportunity for judicial review
and indeed in the course of the evidence there has been reference
to at least one judicial review having occurred, more than one.
Can you tell us how many applications for judicial review there
have been against the Commission in the course of the Commission's
(Mr Holland) In the course of my chairmanship there
have been two which have been unsuccessful. I think in the previous
one there were about six or seven applications but I can let you
have the specific answer.
73. That would be grand.
(Mr Holland) I do not know the precise figure.
74. I think I speak on behalf of all the Committee,
whatever their views on the legislationand it comes as
no surprise to you in a multi-party committee that there may be
varying views about the legislation which gives rise to the Commissionbut
I think I would be speaking on behalf of the whole Committee,
not least after the manner in which you have given evidence to
us, that the whole Committee wishes you extremely well in the
task that you have and we are very appreciative to you for having
come here and indeed for the manner in which you have given evidence
to us. To ask a question I do periodically ask to witnesses in
the final conclusion of these meetings, is there any question
you were surprised we had not asked you?
(Mr Holland) Surprised you did not ask me? No, I am
bound to say I found it much more of an easier process than I
encountered with the Lord Burns Committee on Financial Services
and Marketing Bill which was difficult both technically and in
every other way.
75. You can be recalled.
(Mr Holland) The only thing that threw me was Mr Pound's
remark about somebody whose name sounded faintly Norwegian. I
have no knowledge or interest in sport, I do apologise.
Mr Pound: It is nothing to do with sport; it
is Wimbledon Football Club! At that point it was 395 games and
395 draws, not a bad record.
Chairman: I should say that a lack of interest
in sport is in no sense a disqualification for your office and
sometimes we have equal difficulty understanding Mr Pound!
Mr Pound: Thank you, I think.
Chairman: Thank you very much.