Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence


  When I gave oral evidence to the Committee on 3 May, I undertook to respond in writing on a number of points.


  Mr McGrady said that he understood that the Commission had made recommendations to the Secretary of State regarding the operation of the Public Processions Act and asked me about the Secretary of State's response.

  I assumed he was referring to the Commission's statutory duty (section 2(1)(d) of the Act) to "keep under review, and make such recommendations as it thinks fit to the Secretary of State concerning, the operation of [the] Act" and said that I had no knowledge of any such recommendations. I can now confirm that the Parades Commission has not made any such recommendations to the Secretary of State.

  The Commission did, of course, respond to the request to submit evidence to the Northern Ireland Office Review which is mentioned in the terms of reference of the Committee's inquiry. As part of that evidence the Commission made a number of suggestions relevant to the work of the Commission and the operation of the Public Processions Act. These covered the desirability of clarifying what the Commission meant by "engagement"; the case for drawing up a guide to all forms of third party intervention, including mediation; and the work of the Commission's Authorised Officers in developing the capacity of local communities to work for long-term solutions to parading disputes. Each of these suggestions is reflected in the conclusions of the Northern Ireland Office Parades Review.


  Mr Robinson asked me about correspondence between the Commission and the Grand Orange Lodge in 1997. He acknowledged that I was not personally involved at the time. Having researched the papers, my understanding is that the Commission had initially considered asking nominees of various interested parties to meet the Commission in order to discuss the draft document.

  The Commission's letter of 15 October to the Grand Orange Lodge explained that the Commission had subsequently decided to publish all three of its draft statutory documents simultaneously for consultation purposes "in the first instance". The letter assured Grand Lodge that "the Orange Order will be high on the list of those to be included in this exercise". However, the letter of 15 October went on to say that the nominees the Order had provided to the Commission "would remain germane for this purpose". This was because, at that stage, the Commission had not decided precisely how it would carry out the consultation exercise. It was subsequently decided that the nomination of representatives from interested parties would be unwieldy and impractical. This appears to have led to the misunderstanding between the Commission and the Grand Lodge.

  It is, however, important to be clear that the Orange Order was subsequently included fully in the extensive consultation process. The Commission provided Grand Lodge with the draft Code of Conduct, Guidelines, and Procedural Rules at the outset of the consultation period, asking for views. It again enclosed copies of the draft documents in a letter of 8 January 1998 from Richard Buchanan, then Secretary to the Commission, to the Grand Master, before the consultation period closed on 31 January 1998.

  Whatever the misunderstandings which may have arisen in the past, I did write to the Grand Master of the Orange Order shortly after my appointment as Chairman of the Parades Commission, in the hope of developing a working relationship. To date I have received no reply.


  On 3 May I was unable to confirm exactly how many applications for judicial review of Commission determinations there had been. I am advised that the total is five, none of which has been successful. There have, in addition, been two applications for judicial review brought against the Northern Ireland Office in relation to the appointment of Commission members. Neither application was successful.

Tony Holland

29 June 2000

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