Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200
WEDNESDAY 29 NOVEMBER 2000
200. I do not disagree with you, I think you
have made a sane and sensible point, but how is the community
involved if the Commission continues to look at each single application
individually? Would it not be more communitarian or whatever for
the Commission actually to say, "Here is a tranche of applications
in a particular geographical area in a particular time scale"
and perhaps to say, "We can have one this week, maybe not
the next week." Do you see where I am going? Or am I walking
round in circles?
(Mr Hay) No, the point we would try to make is that
in every individual area, local parades are traditional paradesvery,
very much soand very much so to that individual club. We
have a Parades Commission who would tell us that they deal with
every parade individuallythat is what they saybut
on occasions they have not done that because they banned the Ormeau
Road. The only reason they banned the Ormeau Road parade was because
of a threat from the Bogside residents who don't live along there.
Our problem has been all along that we should treat every parade
on its own merit, because it is a traditional parade we are talking
about right across the Province. So it is not a matter of just
shifting and saying, "You can have your parade this week,
you can have your parade next week." It does not happen that
(Mr Hoey) And we come back to accommodation. Accommodation
is not about simply the next parade; accommodation, as I have
said, is something for a longer-term solution, with the local
communities meeting a resolution.
201. Can you summarise for the Committee the
attempt by the Belfast Walker Club to establish dialogue with
the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community and what progress was made
in the course of that dialogue?
(Mr Hoey) Most of that obviously is subject to the
confidentiality of that situation. All I can say is that a process
was entered into in and around April of 1999. In terms of the
setting up of that process, it is an independent chair with two
sides sitting around the table. Those discussions are open, there
are no closed issues within the discussions, and they progress
for a period. The door is not shut on that process, but it certainly
has had difficulties since April of this year in the Parades Commission's
efforts to parachute in an alternative process. In terms of the
actual meetings, as I said before, I think there were about 10/12
meetings over a period of 10 months.
(Mr Simpson) In the past we have asked Apprentice
Boys branches to go and talk to residents groups. It has not always
been that because they have talked they have come out with an
agreement. We have found that Apprentice Boys, the branches, have
tried to get an agreement, but the residents groups are reluctant
to get an agreement, and at the end of the day the Parades Commission
have gone against the Apprentice Boys because there was not an
agreement reached. I mean, it is very easy to turn round and say,
"You go in and you have talks"and there are enough
politicians around who know thisbut you can go in and talk,
but it does not always say because you talk there is going to
be an agreement. We have found that the Parades Commission has
come down on the side of a residents group, who does not want
the parade to go through that area, and therefore they have penalised
the Apprentice Boys for doing so.
(Mr Hay) In the way that the Apprentice Boys are structured,
there may be local branches who feel they want to talk to people,
they want to do things differently, and maybe in parts of the
Province there are different ways of achieving what they want
to achieve. Some clubs have decided not to talk to resident groups.
We have respected that decision as well. There are some clubs
who do want to talk to residents groups and we have said, "If
you think that is the best way forward, you do it." But we
have found and I think the membership have found that we are coming
very close to saying to the Parades Commission, "There is
no point in talking to you any longer because we are not achieving
anything with all the work that we are doing."
(Mr Hoey) Could I put the point which really rules
our most recent determinations but, again, something you mentioned
earlier: the pattern of determinations being based on the threat
of disorder. That basically means that there is no incentive for
dialogue from the residents groups any longer, because if that
pattern is established, and we believe it is establishedI
do not know what other organisations have presented, but I believe
that that pattern is well establishedthere is absolutely
no incentive to talk. Because, basically, if your intention is
that there be no parades, then threaten disorder and there will
be no parade. So you have achieved your goal. So what incentive
is there for you to get into accommodation or dialogue?because
you can tell your community, "Hey, we've stopped these guys
coming down the street." There is no incentive for them to
enter dialogue on their part. Again, if there is going to be accommodation
and understanding between groups, there has to be a framework
where both parties are incentivised, and at the moment the Parades
Commission has put up a great big negative barrier to dialogue.
(Mr Hay) In fact at this moment in time we have said
to individual clubs that we believe they should not get into dialogue
with residents groupsat this moment in timebecause
it is not achieving anything. And the only thing it is achieving
is the Parades Commission continually coming down on the side
that does the threatening of violence, irrespective of what they
202. Does the Commission in any way monitor
the progress of this dialogue or does the Commission rely on report
summaries from the participating groups?
(Mr Hoey) In the Lower Ormeau situation, the only
thing that was, if you like, insisted on by the Apprentice Boysin
that the choice of chair, choice of location, choice of all the
procedural elements were basically handed to the LOCC to take
a lead onthe one thing that was agreed is that all minutes
go to the Parades Commission. So the parades Commission is a party
to all the minutes of the dialogue, so that again they can evaluate
progress of dialogue for themselves. How they do that is something
203. Staying with the Belfast Walker Club, the
Remembrance Day parade determination went against the club. I
understand that the club sought a review or is seeking a review
on that decision and wanted to have access to the advice offered
to the Commission by the police and the Commission refused. Can
you give us some explanatory talk here? What was the purpose,
in particular, of seeking that police advice? Is this an issue
you can take further?
(Mr Hoey) We sought the police evidence on the basis
that it was evidence provided to the Commission after the Commission
had met the Belfast Walker Club to talk to the Commission about
its forthcoming parade. Therefore, we felt that, under the procedure
which was identified in the Determination itself from the Parades
Commission, there should be a review of that Determination, because
there was evidence not given which the Parades Commission had.
You have a copy of the Determination of the Parades Commission
based on that which, frankly, as I have said, is incomprehensible,
so I think you are going to have to ask the Parades Commission
why it does not provide the fair hearing because we cannot work
out why not.
204. Do I understand you to be saying that the
police evidence you are referring to was given to the Commission
after you had given your evidence and your case?
(Mr Hoey) That is right. The Belfast Walker Club was
invited to meet the Parades Commission on the Fridaythe
agreed date was the Friday before the Monday of its determination.
As far as I am aware, the police were asked to attend a meeting
of the Parades Commission on the Monday morning of the determination
and that was clearly after the Apprentice Boys had been in. Given
that the 11/1 goes in 28 days before a parade, there really is
no reason why people are being invited in on the morning of the
determination, because surely the Parades Commission should be
sitting down and giving due consideration to the evidence and
to the issues at hand and not suddenly bringing in evidence to
put into that determination.
(Mr Simpson) Can I say that on all parades of the
Apprentice Boys, including the main parade in Londonderry in August,
the Parades Commission have this habit of leaving everything until
the last minute and it heightens tension, not only with the Apprentice
Boys but with the whole city of Londonderry, where people do not
know where they are going and what is happening. I firmly and
squarely put the blame on the Parades Commission for being so
long in bringing the Determination out. There should be no reason
205. The information that was provided by the
Apprentice Boys, as Mr Pound said, has been extremely useful to
us, but one of the criticisms that I may have about the Commission
is in respect of the information you provided to us. When they
determined on 6 November on the Belfast Walker Club's parade,
they said that "information and advice" had been provided
by police. In the letter to your solicitors of 8 November, they
talked about the Commission "will be pleased to discuss the
police evidence" and also talk about "police officers
would not be present for cross-examination in relation to evidence".
Yet on the 9th they clearly say, "The Commission, however,
did not accept that what was received from the police amounted
to evidence but was merely advice". Was there not a contradiction
in the Commission's position? They seem to be saying, "We
have talked about this evidence in the original determination,"
then said it existed and then said it did not. I am trying to
be helpful, in terms of I find that very confusing.
(Mr Hoey) Yes. Welcome to the Parades Commission.
(Mr Simpson) How can you give advice on something
that you know nothing about?
(Mr Hay) To try to clear that point up, when we talked
to the police at the highest level they were certainly indicating
to us that it was not evidence they were giving, it was only advice.
If somebody round the table can work that out, that is exactly
what they were telling us: they were not giving evidence, they
were only giving advice.
(Mr Hoey) We then asked the Parades Commission: "If
it was only advice, that must be advice on evidence that there
would be serious disorder, so then tell us where the evidence
was that there would be serious disorder. Who did that come from?"
Then they started talking about, "We only get advice"
and I said, "You made the determination on the 9th, it is
incomprehensible, and we did not get an answer in terms of "where
is this threat of disorder." This comes back down to the
fundamental of a fair hearing. If there is evidence that is denying
freedom of assembly, then what is that evidence? Surely our club
has a right to understand what that evidence is, to respond to
it. If it is in dialogueI mean, let us get back to the
encouragement of being in dialoguehow does it know what
are issues to address if it has not been told what the issues
Mr Clarke: Thank you for your patience, Chairman.
206. Good morning, gentlemen. Just to change
the issue a little bit, as I understand it all your parades are
(Mr Simpson) Yes.
207. Given the demographic changes that are
taking place in the Province, as a general rule do you think that
all traditional parades should be set in stone?
(Mr Simpson) Some people are saying they should be
buried! I think the traditional parades should be allowed to take
place no matter what section of the community it comes from, should
it be Protestant or Nationalist or whatever. We have no problems
in the city of Londonderry with having a parade on 12 August or
the nearest date and the Ancient Order of Hibernians having theirs
on 15 August. I am one who says stand for civil and religious
liberty. You will not see me nor a lot of the Protestants in Londonderry
go out opposing the Ancient Order of Hibernians on 15 August.
We must be fair. If we say we stand for civil and religious liberty,
it means for all, and we will not go out and oppose another parade,
because if we did the whole of Northern Ireland would be in anarchy.
(Mr Hay) I think it is very important that traditional
parades in Northern Ireland are protected as far as possible.
That is very important.
208. Do you support the concept which is sometimes
made of taking a different approach to traditional and non-traditional
(Mr Simpson) That is a very parliamentary question
you are asking there. Could you be a bit more specific?
209. There are some people who say that all
traditional parades should go on but that a different point of
view should be taken in relation to those parades which are not
traditional. They may be new parades that maybe have come up recently
and are not really traditional.
(Mr Simpson) All parades should be seen in the same
light and taken into consideration what the parade is for, the
reason for it, and a decision madeno matter what section
it comes from.
210. The Committee is seeking to establish how,
within the existing framework of law and structures, the effectiveness
of the Commission may be enhanced. What suggestions do you have
(Mr Hoey) We were looking at the framework and we
put down the issue of getting the law right, particularly in respect
to natural justice. That is something that should have a very,
very serious look taken at it. It comes back to the fundamental
difficulty with the Parades Commission, particularly since February
of this year, and that is that there is almost serial incompetence,
you have no idea where it is going. There is £1 million been
spent on an organisation that, frankly, I have no idea what its
criteria are, I do not know from one parade to the next the way
its determinations are going to be made. There are parades, such
as the one at Maghera, where they were sending people down the
wrong streets, where they had not worked out exactly where anything
should be anywhere. They tell you in August that they would be
minded to allow a parade to go down the Lower Ormeau Road before
Christmas and then make a case in the Determination that they
were mindful that the parade being requested on the 11 November
was non-traditional, when any parade before Christmas was going
to be non-traditional, so any parade applied for was non-traditional,
so what is the point? What is their problem? I think the biggest
issue with the Commission is quite simply that it does not know
what it is doing. I think the biggest issue is a very strong crash-course
in administrative management and how to organise itself. With
somebody being paid £70,000 a year, perhaps that person should
not be based in Plymouth and perhaps the Commission should be
perhaps more full-time or perhaps have a more consistent basis
211. Do you think that the Commission could
be changed to make it more acceptable to the Loyal Orders?
(Mr Simpson) No.
212. Does that mean you think that it ought
to be scrapped?
(Mr Simpson) Could I put it this way: is there any
of you gentlemen that can see that anything that the Parades Commission
has done since it was formed, what good it has done for the good
of Northern Ireland.
Chairman: I did not have to intervene on Mr
Thompson, but I was going to remind my Committee that we were
asking the questions!
213. Good morning, gentlemen. I am not sure
what I am asking you for, in terms of previous comments, whether
you were giving us advice or whether you were giving us evidence,
but we will sort that out later. From your last answer it is quite
clear that you have no time whatsoever for the Parades Commission.
While the Committee is engaged in concentrating their opinion
on the current framework, you would like to see that framework
abolished, from what you have said, so the abolition of the Commission
would presumably be your first choice. But if you confirm that
that is so, then what do you see taking its place in order to
address the problem that is obviously there in our community.
Do you see a body which could modify or change or ban groups of
(Mr Simpson) I believe that the only people who can
bring the answer to Northern Ireland and with the problems of
Northern Ireland are people who live in Northern Ireland. I have
found that Mr Holland and Alistair Graham beforehand just had
not a clue what the problems were all about, and yet they were
the ones that were making the decisions for the benefit of Northern
Ireland. I would prefer to see a body that was from Stormont here,
where they know exactly where the problems are from. Because,
at the end of the day, if we do not have that, we will never get
a resolution to the problem.
214. I take it that you do see a body, be it
a local body, a body proposed of local personages. That would
rule out, for instance, giving power back to the Secretary of
State to ban or allow parades, or, indeed, what is your comment
on giving power back to the police to ban or permit parades?
(Mr Simpson) First of all, to the Secretary of State,
I would not agree, because it has been proven in the pastwhen
a previous Secretary of State closed the walls to the Apprentice
Boys on 12 August they nearly wrecked the whole city because of
it. I do not know whether it would be the police force to be the
ruler of this new body, but it must be someone who has a knowledge
of the law and order, who has a knowledge of parades, wherever
they come from, and, at the end of the day, the bottom line would
be for the good of Northern Ireland.
215. Can I ask a digression question. During
the debate on the Committee Stage of the Parades Bill establishing
this Commission, traditionality was a subject of great comment.
A certain colleague, who I think would be a member of one of the
Loyal Orders, explained to me in some detail that a traditional
parade could be one which in certain circumstances took place
every 47 years. Would you concur that that is a traditional parade
in terms of it spanning a vacancy of two generations?
(Mr Simpson) Time is only a measurement to be a guide
on what a tradition should be and what it should not. It is very
hardand I would not even begin to startto say what
is tradition and what is not. We in the Apprentice Boys Association
know what tradition means for our Association but it may be completely
different for some other organisations. Therefore, I would not
turn round and say that tradition is such and such.
216. We have done extremely well in terms of
time, so I shall ask Mr Hay if he wants in any way to expand on
what I cut him off from saying right at the beginning when I said
I thought we ought to get into questions, though I think there
has perhaps been an opportunity in terms of the answers you have
given to cover anything which obviously you wanted to say at that
juncture. Let me clarify whether any of my colleagues has a supplementary
they want to ask before we bring it to a conclusion. It does not
sound as though we do, therefore clearly we have been able to
cover the ground that we wanted to cover and we are very grateful
to you for the evidence you gave to us. There is one tiny historical
point I would like to verify: we have covered in this examination
several questions about the events of the November Belfast Walker
Club march and the conversations which occurred in the context
of that. As I understand it, a protest parade was also notified
by the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community and this was also the
subject of a formal determination by the Commission restricting
it to the hours of 6 am to 7 am. As a matter of historical record,
do you know whether that march actually took place?
(Mr Hoey) On the basis of previous applications and
previous events, including, I think, the one before, was to paint
or to launch a new mural within the Lower Ormeau communityno
idea if it happened but previous ones had not. When I askedat
Easter, I think it was, this yearthe Authorised Officer
if in fact she had turned up to observe whether they had kept
within the guidelines of the Parades Commission determination
she turned and told me, "There was no point in doing that
because they were not going to have a parade because you were
not going down the road." So basically this is a tactical
effort to bring people within an area, that if a parade went ahead
there would be a large body of people, and a large body of people
has the potential for disorder, and the potential for disorder
would appear to be enough for the Parades Commission to say it
(Mr Hay) Chairman, you notice our Governor was very
measured when he talked about a former Secretary of State.
217. Mr Hay, not only did I note that he was
very measured, I find when anybody starts a sentence giving evidence
about a former Secretary of State I immediately prepare myself
for the possibility that it was myself. Thank you most warmly
for giving evidence and indeed for the submissions you have provided
us with. It has been thoroughly worthwhile from our point of view
and we are very appreciative.
(Mr Simpson) May I say, once again, thank you very
much for giving us your time to listen to us.