Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary Memorandum submitted by Mr Michael Hamilton

  When I gave evidence to the Committee on 29 November, I undertook to provide some further analysis on how determinations of the Parades Commission have been reached in support of the statistics I gave in oral evidence. I hope that the attached tables and notes, which briefly explain those tables, will serve that end. I also hope that the Committee will understand why I have not felt able to comment in greater detail on these statistics as my research in this area is continuing.


  The reason for compiling the tables was to try to elicit the relative influence of the five statutory factors, contained in section 8(6) of the Public Processions Act 1998, in the determinations of the Parades Commission. Their compilation, however, was not without difficulty, and two caveats should be entered. The first arises from not knowing exactly what conclusions the Commission have drawn from their consideration of any single factor, let alone how those conclusions have been weighed up against other factors when reaching each determination. While the Commission frequently elaborates on its consideration of the individual section 8(6) criteria in its decisions, it is often presumptive to isolate any single factor and, more particularly, to make a connection between that single factor and the Commission's final determination. Anyone examining the statistics should bear in mind—the tables can only represent my reading of the conclusions drawn from the Commission's consideration of the individual criteria.

  The second caveat derives from the fact that many determinations refer back to previous determinations. As a result, it is sometimes unclear whether one should recognise a particular factor as being pertinent to the Commission's conclusion when if it is not mentioned in the determination at hand, yet is cited as being a factor in the prior referenced determination. A clear example is provided by the criteria, Compliance with the Code of Conduct, which is considered in the Commission's "Drumcree Church Parade" determinations (relating to parades on 5 July 1998 and 4 July 1999) yet rarely cited in the subsequent weekly determinations. Rather, in these determinations the only factor explicitly cited is the impact on relationships within the community (and also, latterly, the potential for public disorder). The question then is, whether Compliance with the Code of Conduct was a factor in the Commission's deliberations regarding those subsequent parades. My interpretation has been that Compliance with the Code was not a factor in those decisions. Therefore, in compiling the tables, the Code of Conduct has only been counted as a factor if explicit reference were made to breaches at a previous parade or parades. In contrast, I have counted the public disorder factor even if it is not mentioned in the determination at hand, but does not appear to have been a significant factor in the referenced determination.

  This is particularly significant that a sizeable proportion of the determinations issued by the Parades Commission are in response to the weekly applications by Portadown LOL No 1 to return to Portadown from Drumcree Parish Church along the Gravaghy Road. The way in which those determinations are broken down and construed can have a disproportionate impact on the overall statistics. The difference between counting Compliance with the Code of Conduct as a factor in relation to these subsequent parades, and not doing so, is the difference between, in 1998, this factor being considered pertinent to the Commission's conclusion in 39 per cent of its determinations, or being considered pertinent to the conclusion in 18 per cent of its determinations (as cited in the table). Indeed, this differential would probably be even greater for 1999.

  It is also worthy of note that in several determinations in 1998, the Commission stated that "As the Code of Conduct was not in existence when the parades under discussion took place, this was not a factor we could take into account", and this therefore goes some way to explaining why this factor was little relied upon in 1998.

  Finally, the statistics are based on the calendar year, and are not therefore directly comparable with those produced by the Parades Commission which are based on the financial year.

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