Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
WEDNESDAY 15 NOVEMBER 2000
WATSON, MLA AND
80. But they fall within the composite figure
which you gave?
(Mr Saulters) Yes, that is right.
81. A different question, but which derives
obviously from evidence which we have already taken. What steps
have been taken to seek to develop a relationship with the Parades
(Mr Saulters) On three different occasions it has
been put to our Grand Lodge, and the majority, a very large majority,
do not want any connection with the Parades Commission at all.
82. So the letter which the new Chairman of
the Parades Commission, Mr Holland, whose photograph you mentioned
a moment or two ago, which, as I understand it, sought to develop
a working relationship with you, has that letter been responded
to, even if in the negative?
(Mr Saulters) No. That letter came direct from Mr
Holland to myself, and I thought it was an attempt to put me at
odds with the membership of the Orange Institution. Mr Holland
would have known our position with the Parades Commission, and
to correspond directly with myself, in a private capacity, I did
not reply to it because I am not going to break the rules that
my membership has set, which brings in me as well, under the same
(Mr Bingham) I think, Mr Chairman, it would have been
the advice of those close to the Grand Master that perhaps it
would have compromised his position within the Institution at
83. I was not, in a sense, seeking to understand
the process, I was seeking to verify whether there had actually
been a reply to the letter, and I now know that there was not.
(Mr Saulters) There was not, that is right.
84. Good afternoon, gentlemen. Is there, in
reality, a generic problem over parades, or are the problems confined
to just a few locations? We understand that, in 1998-99, of the
total 2,012 Loyalist parades notified to the Commission, route
restrictions were placed on only 119, that is about 5 per cent,
and, in all, just 295 were considered possibly contentious, and
only just over half of these were, in the end, subjected to route
(Mr Saulters) Well, 295 is a contentious figure at
the moment; but, of course, the Sinn Fein can up that whenever
they wish, they can make any parade contentious if they wish.
(Mr Watson) I think it should be said, Mr Chairman,
that it has been a well-orchestrated campaign to destroy the cultural
expression and civil rights of our membership, and Mr Gerry Adams
is on record at a Republican conference in County Meath, in the
Irish Republic, in 1997, and I quote: "Ask any activist in
the North did Drumcree happen by accident, and they will tell
you `no' . . . three years of work on the Lower Ormeau Road, Portadown
and parts of Fermanagh and Newry, Armagh and Bellaghy and up in
Derry. Three years work went into creating that situation, and
fair play to those people who put the work in." That is from
the Leader of Sinn Fein IRA.
85. Thank you. The Institution claims that the
Commission is incapable of abiding by its own procedural rules.
Could you give us some examples, and were these challenged in
the courts, and if not why not?
(Mr Patton) I think the most obvious example, Chairman
and Members, is the determination on Portadown, when the Prime
Minister asked the Parades Commission to delay their determination
and not make the required timetable and they did that, breaking
all the procedural rules that they had set up. It was not challenged
in the courts. I think that, truth be, we have been waiting until
2 October, when human rights legislation would apply to Northern
Ireland and make it much, much easier for us to pursue any legal
challenge through the court system there, without going to Europe.
(Mr Bingham) I think to add to the fact of our inability
at times to challenge the courts, I live in the village of Pomeroy,
which is 90 per cent of the Nationalist persuasion, 10 per cent
Protestant, I am the Presbyterian Minister there, and most of
my congregation will be members of the Orange Order. And whenever
there is a ban put on our parades there, it takes a very brave
man, living in such a minority, to stand up and say "We want
to make an appeal" and go to court over this, because he
is immediately putting his head above the parapet and can come
under immense pressure from Sinn Fein IRA, him and his whole family;
and it has happened to some of our folk in the past. So the court
system, although it is there, is not always very easy for local
Lodges to deal with it, because of the come-back they have in
the areas that some of them are in.
(Mr Patton) The other aspect, of course, following
on from that, is that only individuals can take cases; Lodges,
so the Grand Lodge of Ireland, cannot. And, for some strange reason,
when people can represent residents' groups and receive legal
aid, when it comes to a member of the Orange Order it is claimed
that they are operating on behalf of the Orange Order and legal
aid is refused; so it is a much more expensive operation for any
of our people. And I think that is something that has to be challenged,
in due course, in another place.
86. I am not seeking it at this particular juncture,
but could you provide us with some written evidence of those cases,
in the aftermath of this examination?
(Mr Patton) Yes.
87. Can we take it then that there have been
no challenges of procedural irregularities, to date, but there
could be in the future?
(Mr Saulters) Actually, we did take a case, just in
October there, 23 October, for Dunloy in County Antrim, and it
was put out of court, and we took it to the High Court and we
are still awaiting judgment on the case from the Lord Chief Justice.
(Mr Bingham) But that was against a decision of the
Parades Commission, rather than against the procedures that they
88. Just to press a wee bit further, Chairman,
has the Parades Commission helped resolve the situation in any
way in Northern Ireland, in your opinion?
(Mr Watson) Mr Chairman and Members, I would have
to say, the Parades Commission, from its inception, has added
to the problem greatly, and I long for the day when the Parades
Commission is abolished and when we can get a resolution to the
problem, and that is something we have sought from day one. But
it is very difficult, when you go into situations, to try to resolve
situations, particularly in the Drumcree/Garvaghy Road problem,
when, since 1995/1996, we have gone inconsistently into various
proximity talks, processes, and those are all ignored by people
at a high level, both at Government, who are quite well aware
of what has been undertaken since then, the RUC Chief Constable,
the Archbishop of Armagh, Lord Eames, and other people, all know
the work that has been undertaken by the Orange Institution. And
every time we go into a situation to try to resolve that problem,
and I do not need to remind the Members here present of the summer
we have come through this year, which has been just absolutely
disgraceful, and I think both the Grand Master, Executive Officer
and myself have made the position of the Grand Lodge abundantly
plain this year, in relation to where the Grand Lodge stands in
relation to any protest action; but, I would have to say, the
Parades Commission have added greatly to the problem. And also,
what they are now doing, they are sending out their Authorised
Officers to talk to people to try to get them to speak to members
of the Institution, at various levels, and they also have a very
difficult situation where the Authorised Officers are actually
going to residents' groups and actually inviting applications
from those residents' groups and objections, and I think that
that is a very serious situation for Authorised Officers of the
Parades Commission to find themselves in.
(Mr Bingham) I think, Mr Chairman, if I may just add
to that, one of our local papers, the Newsletter, which would
be, broadly speaking, a pro-Agreement, Unionist paper, last week,
in its editorial, commenting on the Parades Commission's decision
not to allow the Apprentice Boys to walk the Ormeau Road, having
had the Apprentice Boys engaged both with the Parades Commission
and with the residents' group, in its final paragraph of its editorial,
said this: "This newspaper has always believed that the legislation
which spawned the Commission was tantamount to an objector's charter;
we have yet to see any good reason to revise our opinion."
And one of the strong feelings within the community that I come
from is that, when you read through the determinations of the
Parades Commission, it seems that where there is any kind of threat
of violence from those who are opposed to our parades then we
simply just do not get the parade. So they really are inviting
people, as we would say, almost to bring the force of violence
into play here, and that you reward the people who can bring the
threat of violence, and punish the people who would not use violence.
(Mr Patton) I think, also, Chairman, the Parades Commission's
own statistics would add to this. Whilst it is very obvious that
there was an orchestrated campaign hatched in the Maze Prison,
developed by Republican activists, as Mr Adams' words confirm,
the very fact that, since the inception of the Parades Commission,
there are now, what, something like 295 possibly contentious routes,
I think I got the figure there from someone.
89. I think it was in Mr Beggs's question.
(Mr Patton) Yes; there certainly were not 295 contentious
routes before the Parades Commission came into operation.
90. The Institution considers that the power
of the Commission to issue determinations undermines its capacity
to mediate disputes. Can you explain and expand that position?
(Mr Bingham) Perhaps, Mr Hunter, if I could just briefly
say to you what I believe lies at the heart of an Orangeman's
thinking, at this stage, on that question. I do not know if any
of you know what an Orangeman is, or what he believes, but yesterday
evening I took my eight-year-old son to join the Junior Orange
Order; he went down to a little hall in Pomeroy and he had a collarette
that I had when I was his age, that was given to me by my grandfather,
when he was in the Juniors. We arrived in the hall, my son was
brought in, it opened in prayer, there was a bible study and then
there were some games and football afterwards; the kids were taught
a little bit about the history of the Reformation, a little bit
about some of the key factors in that Reformation, and they went
home. To many within the Orange Order, that is what it is about;
it is religious, it is based on the Reformation, and there is
a social dimension to it as well. And, therefore, we feel that
anybody, whether it is the Parades Commission or a residents'
group, that is challenging what we see as our liberty and right
to express that social culture and religious faith that we have
is an infringement of our civil liberties. So whenever a Parades
Commission has to make an arbitrary decision, which is either
"Yes, you have your parade," or "No, you don't
have your parade," because of the nature of Orangeism, we
very much rebel against anyone telling us that we should not freely
express our faith, we feel that is an inalienable right to us;
so, therefore, we feel that anybody, any group, that is linked
to that arbitration we can have no confidence in. Now the Authorised
Officers are not exactly separate from the Parades Commission,
they are really chosen, I know, by the Mediation Network, but
they work alongside the Parades Commission, and our feeling has
been that neither have been able to do their work effectively,
because, at the end of the day, the Parades Commission can decide
whether or not a parade takes place. And if an Orangeman co-operates
with an Authorised Officer and tries to bring about a resolution
to the problem, and then the ban is slapped on them, they cannot
march the roads, then they lose confidence with the Authorised
Officer as well, and the whole thing loses credibility.
91. The Commission looks at each parade separately,
as a one-off, isolated event; does the Institution agree with
that approach, or is there an argument for some sort of linkage
between different parades, linkage either geographical, time,
or in degree of contention?
(Mr Patton) I think, Mr Hunter, that we believe that
all parades are equal, insofar as it is an expression of our faith
or an expression of our culture, and the time, the place, is perhaps
irrelevant to that, and that it is about whether or not people
have the right to express their faith and their culture in a peaceful,
legitimate manner, and we feel that that is what the Parades Commission
fail to take account of. It is interesting that they certainly
would appear to look at the various parades as specific issues,
and that, I think, has led to some tremendous contradictions in
their determinations. I am not sure, beyond that, that we would
see them as being linked geographically, or in time, or things
like that, but what we would say is that an expression of your
faith is as important in Portadown as it is in Pomeroy, as it
is in Belfast.
92. I was actually very interested in Mr Bingham's
comments, earlier on, and I wanted to ask a question, which may
strike you as somewhat naïve but perhaps resonates with people
on this side of the water. On your website, you refer, quite rightly,
to a number of aspects of Orangeism, you say how keen you are
on social activities, how keen you are on sports and you are extremely
keen on quizzes, and also it contains a line that "Orangeism
is not about the Twelfth of July", I presume that is not
derogatory, the Twelfth of July, but it is not solely about the
Twelfth of July, it is about theology, it is about history, it
is about tradition, it is about principle, it is about morality,
so it is other issues. And yet the fact remains that, however
defensible those positions are, some parades are controversial,
some parades will result in damage to individuals, in damage to
property, that is a fact of life. Now, leaving aside the issue
of there being a veto on parades for a moment, which is following
from your point, what would you suggest that the civil authorities
do in a case where demonstrably a parade is going to lead to civil
disorder, and simply to leave it to the RUC to clear up the mess
would almost be abrogating responsibility? What would your answer
be to that?
(Mr Bingham) Can I maybe answer that in two parts.
First of all, why should any of our parades be controversial,
in the sense that we see nothing in our Institution, in our founding
principles, that anybody should be offended by. If they do not
like the fact that we are a Protestant organisation, because people
do not like Protestants, we are asking for some toleration of
our faith; and, I think, to be fair, for example, to the community
in which I live, the small part of the village that I live in,
Pomeroy, is Protestant. Now you have to understand that in my
congregation we have borne the brunt of IRA violence, and there
are many RUC men and UDR men buried in Pomeroy graveyard; but
occasionally Sinn Fein IRA have a parade through the village of
Pomeroy, they bring in their bands, they have guys dressed up
in paramilitary uniforms, they carry replica guns; they walk past
my house, they walk past the church, they walk right alongside
the graves, past our war memorial, right down to the police station,
then back up again. Now I could object to that, I could say, "This
is grossly offensive to the memory of the folk that are lying
there," and I could go out and organise a residents' group
of Protestants to block that parade; but we do not, because one
of the founding principles of Orangeism is civil and religious
liberties for everyone. If you do not like it then you stay indoors
while it goes past, you ignore it, you get on with your life.
Because when people say to me "Your parades are controversial,
therefore you should not walk the Garvaghy Road," or "You
should not walk the streets of Pomeroy," I say, "But
we should; we are there, we can't be ignored, we're part of Northern
Ireland, we're part of a community that is diverse in culture
and in faith, let's not start segregation." But I say to
my people "Let's show toleration, and there are things that
we may have to put up with;" and that is what we do, and
that happens in Pomeroy. If you ask me what does it come down
to then, should the police force a parade through, should they
make sure that in all circumstances a parade goes down, I feel
that they should, I feel it is a basic civil liberty. I think
there are responsibilities that we have when we parade, and I
think we have got to try to show that we are concerned to take
on board some of the criticism that is levelled at us by other
members of the community, but, having taken those on board, and
having been seen to do that, a parade should not be banned, and
the necessary levers should be brought in to police a parade.
And certainly at Drumcree there has been more money spent and
much more manpower put in to stopping a parade going than ever,
ever was needed to put a parade down the road.
93. Sorry; just to come back. Presumably, the
demonstration and the indefensible activities that you have just
described would not be licensed by the Parades Commission, there
is no way the Parades Commission would authorise that?
(Mr Bingham) They would not object to that if there
was no objection from the local community.
94. Replica weapons, balaclavas?
(Mr Bingham) It has happened in the past.
95. Okay; but on your point about the line between
tradition and your theological base, there is in Tipperary a family
called McDonaugh, who are part of a huge travelling clan, the
McDonaughs, the Wards, the Stokes, and the rest of them, who have
been coming to my part of West London for 300 years and "pony
and trap" racing down the roads, causing mayhem and loss
of life, in some cases; that is their tradition. We banned them;
if they do it now they get arrested and they get put in prison,
not out of disrespect for their tradition but out of recognition
for the fact that what you may have been able to do 150 years
ago you cannot do in the 21st century. Do you see any sort of
a parallel there?
(Mr Bingham) No, because I do not see any moves to
prevent the Remembrance Day Parade at Whitehall on 11 November;
and most of our parades are to remember, on the first Sunday in
July, those who died at the Battle of the Somme, and the others
are mainly church service parades.
96. But your marches precede by several hundred
years the Battle of the Somme?
(Mr Bingham) Yes, but the first of July became the
focal point of commemoration, because of the 36th Ulster Division,
and that is when most of the services now take place.
97. But it is not very often that a politician
can say he is educated in here, I am grateful, I had not been
aware of that information. The last question, Chairman, I am sorry
I have been a bit circuitous. In your memorandum, you actually
talk about flawed determinations by the Commission, and you give
a number of reasons why you say that they are flawed. Have you
actually sought judicial review, or have the relevant parties
done so, in any of the cases that have been cited, and, in which
case, what was the outcome, what view did the courts take?
(Mr Patton) Prior to 2 October, we have never sought
recompense through the courts at all, we have been waiting until
the Human Rights legislation came in. I have to say, in addition
to that, that I am rather concerned that such decisions would
be legally based, rather than based on common sense and mutual
toleration and respect for each other. I would be very, very saddened
when the time comes that every aspect of life in Northern Ireland
relative to one's faith or one's culture has to be decided judicially.
98. We could end up like America?
(Mr Patton) Yes.
Mr Thompson: First of all, Mr Chairman, can
I declare a non-pecuniary interest in this, as a member of an
Orange Institution, and as this is my first visit to this particular
Committee when dealing with this particular subject.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed.
99. So, good afternoon, gentlemen. What legal
advice, if any, has the Institution sought on the implications
of the Human Rights Act for the operations of the Commission?
In reality, has the position changed at all, given that it was
always possible for cases to be taken to Strasbourg?
(Mr Watson) I think, as the Grand Master has already
said, we have taken a case recently, since 2 October, and we are
currently awaiting the outcome and awaiting the judgment of that
case. The reason we would not have taken the case possibly to
Strasbourg in the past would be the length of time it would take
to have a case processed through Strasbourg, and also it would
be heard, I presume, by Bonn, the foreign courts, in that sense,
whereas now we can do it at the local level, and we are looking
at cases, and will actively seek to do those, as and when necessary.