Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260 - 279)



  260. Do you sometimes discover a larger distinction between what your initial input is and maybe advice about a particular parade and what it is that you then discover through your monitoring which may then alter what it is that you feel is your input in the future?
  (Mr McQuillan) I would not say that, sir. On individual parades there have been situations where we have disagreed with the Parades Commission. We have given advice to the Commission that because of the risks we suggest that the parade should be dealt with in a particular way or that there were higher risks in dealing with it in one way rather than another. The Parades Commission have not accepted our advice. We have policed the parade and the parade has gone well and we would then learn from that experience and move forward next time, I hope. That is the only way I can answer the question. We do treat this as a learning exercise. As I say, some of these are judgement calls. It is a question of how far we can move forward at any given time.

  261. Earlier you talked about parades on 12 sites being ones that created problems. Is it that the inputs that you have, in connection with giving advice to the Parades Commission, tend to relate to those areas or is it more general?
  (Mr McQuillan) The figure of 12 is my immediate reaction. I would like if necessary to go away and look at that and identify the number of sites. It is not a large number of locations. Those are the areas where traditionally we have had the greatest difficulties with parades. I could go round now and say places like Londonderry, Dunloy, the Whiterock parade in Belfast, the Tour of the North parade in Belfast, Kilkeel, Drumcree, Lurgan, are all traditionally places where the parades cause problems because of the nature of the routes and the difficulties with communities in the area and in some cases demographic change. There can be controversial parades outside that but for the vast majority of these there is almost a framework for them. We keep a calendar of parades and we can tell when the peak demands are going to be because those are traditionally the points at which there are conflicts.

  262. The RUC made a submission to the Northern Ireland Review of the Parades Commission in which it concluded that the dual role allotted to the Commission of facilitating mediation and making binding determinations in a court gives rise to an unallowable conflict of interest in court. How would the RUC see this conflict being resolved?
  (Mr McQuillan) I think the Parades Commission share that and in their 1999/2000 report they have also alluded to it. Mediation in our experience is about attempting to get parties to reach an agreement that recognises both their interests but perhaps is not totally satisfactory to both sides. It is about compromise. I think the difficulty the Parades Commission have is that because their Authorised Officers are involved in the process of giving advice to the Commission and because of some of the Loyal Orders' positions on that, the Authorised Officers are therefore seen as not in a good position, or are seen by one of the major parties in this as not in a good position to mediate. The mediations that have worked best in Northern Ireland in our experience have involved independent mediators. We believe that there is benefit in potentially facilitating mediation away from the actual Parades Commission itself. That is a statutory duty of the Commission and we have seen, for example, in the Ballynafeigh parade that the Commission have actually moved towards that, of trying to promote mediation by third parties. A critical issue to a mediation we believe is that the third parties trying to promote the mediation need to be trusted by both parties. The key issue is what works in a given area. Because these are local disputes very often we need local people who are trusted by both sides to have the interest of the entire community at heart to become involved in that process. If I can take the Londonderry example, two local businessmen were at the heart of that mediation effort who were totally unconnected with either organisation and who basically did it out of a sense of civic duty. I hope that is sufficient.

  263. Do you think it is a matter of setting up some new mediation structure such that we can draw on different people on different occasions, or do you feel it is a matter for the Commission itself tending to be aware of those and to be drawing in people who are appropriate to mediate in different circumstances?
  (Mr McQuillan) We could do it different ways. The Commission are taking a very pragmatic and sensible approach to it in terms of trying to bring in people from different areas to do it in different ways. I think that the legislative framework could be as good as any other. The point is that mediation needs to have the trust of all parties involved in the process.

Mr McCabe

  264. Good afternoon, Mr McQuillan. It is nice to see you again. I asked you the last time we met if you would supply some further information on some issues that I had and can I thank you for that information. I want to follow on from the last point. I notice that the memorandum says that you think there is a greater willingness within the wider community to accept mediation and negotiation now. I really wonder how the RUC make that assumption given that certain sections of the Loyal Orders say that they do not want to engage with the Commission and they have made quite a big issue about the whole question of the Queen's Highway being a free right of passage and something that you cannot actually negotiate.
  (Mr McQuillan) I think the Orange Order have a consultation process as I understand it going on at the moment within their membership about how they should react and whether they should maintain their policy. We gather that impression from our contacts across the board, not just with the Loyal Orders but with the wider community, and all sections of the wider community, with political representatives, with local people. The impression that we get is that the impact of Drumcree over the last six years has been such that people are fed up with this problem. They feel it is a blight on their area every year and they want some sort of resolution. I think the vast majority of people probably recognise that these are local issues. They are local communities, very often very small communities, where everyone knows everyone else, and ultimately there has to be some sort of accommodation. The key issue is how we break the impasse and get that accommodation. We also have seen some hopeful signs in a small number of areas where there has been controversy in the past that organisations are prepared to look at things from the other side's point of view. If I can give one example of that, in Newry last year, where there is a long history of disputes about parades, through mediation efforts with a third party group a cultural evening was arranged at which each of the Loyal Orders, for example, presented a stand at which they displayed their memorabilia and their history, their culture, their beliefs, as did some Nationalist groups. People were able to come along collectively to that and go round and talk to each other about why they did various things. Mr McGrady may have some personal knowledge of this—what their beliefs were, why they did some things. That is an early first stage but it is getting people to understand where others are coming from.

  265. I think as I arrived you were explaining to Mr Barnes what you understood by mediation, and you gave one or two examples.
  (Mr McQuillan) Yes.

  266. What is the distinction between "mediation" and "negotiation"? What do the RUC mean by "negotiation"?
  (Mr McQuillan) I think mediation and negotiation could be taken as the same thing. The key issue is in mediation the parties do not necessarily have to come together, they just have to ultimately accept that there is a solution. They may not be prepared to talk to each other, but if they are prepared to talk to a third party who can arrive at a mutually satisfactory deal, that is the difference. Negotiation involves face-to-face negotiation. Ideally one would want to see a society in which these matters could be negotiated politically at local level, at community level, through community representatives and political representatives, but that is some time off.

  267. Do you envisage that the RUC should play a part in direct negotiation and what shape or form would that take?
  (Mr McQuillan) Mediation and negotiation is a statutory duty for the Parades Commission. We would wish to assist in whatever way anyone felt we could be helpful in that. There are occasions where the RUC are intimately involved in negotiations on conflicts with both sections of the community and are trying to broker arrangements with both sections of the community. We keep the Authorised Officers in the Parades Commission fully involved in that, it is not a competition with them, it is a question of what works in a given area. If we can assist that process we would want to do it. Indeed, from the new Police Act we will have a statutory duty to promote community relations in that way. We would want to try and do that but we are equally quite happy to work through third parties.

Mr Pound

  268. Mr McQuillan, I have to say that my admiration for you and your colleagues increases exponentially as I listen to your evidence. I have to say I would not have your job for all the tea in Whitehall. It is immensely impressive. I want to ask you a very easy question to which there is almost a one word answer, but before that could I just ask you a question about a reference you made earlier on to Inspector McGarry's audit. I presume that this, when published, will be an internal RUC document? The reason I am asking is that would be very much grist to our mill on this Committee and some indication of the McGarry audit's conclusions—I would not be so presumptuous as to speak for the Chairman—from the perspective of—

  Chairman: You certainly never would. From the perspective of pond life on this Committee I would greatly value sight of the conclusions, not the audit.
  (Mr McQuillan) In principle I would have no problem submitting an additional memorandum to the Committee on the conclusions[2]. Can I say that I first got this about two days ago, just before the weekend, and on the plane on the way over today we were reading it and I had to keep asking for explanations or how to interpret certain parts. I would be quite happy to provide a memorandum to the Committee on that. We would certainly be open with that document with the Parades Commission, for example, we would be sharing that with them and we hope that would act as a prompt for discussions on some of the interface areas between us. It covers, for example, our internal systems, it covers how we work with the Commission and the Commission work with us, and there are issues of how the systems work that we would want to take up with them.

  269. Thank you very much indeed. Just a simple question. In the evidence you gave you referred to the actual cost of policing the main Drumcree protest between 1998 and 2000, the July parade, as falling over those three years from £11 million to £6 million to £5.5 million. Leaving aside the obvious question of how much good that money could have done in other arenas, is it possible for you to give an indication of the total cost of policing of parades either over a similar period or over five years?
  (Mr McQuillan) I cannot, quite frankly. It is huge in that it requires the force to be structured in a particular way. We are required to keep a large force of standing mobile support units available to deploy at any time. It has a huge impact on the way in which we are organised. We could go through and try to work out some figures on that, but we do not have financial systems that can analyse that in the way you have asked. If you ask me that question in two years' time we hope that we will.

  270. You quote the figure of £11 million for policing Drumcree in July 1998, a staggering figure considering the size of the population of Northern Ireland. Presumably that figure was audited and costed out in some way?
  (Mr McQuillan) Yes.

  271. I am not trying to pin you down but is it possible to give an indication of whether that would be 20 per cent or 50 per cent? How significant is £11 million?
  (Mr McQuillan) That was not even the total cost.

  272. More than that?
  (Mr McQuillan) Yes, transport and ancillary costs are not included, on-costs are not included in that.

  273. And presumably long-term injury and sickness?
  (Mr McQuillan) Are not included in it. We would have to go through and do a detailed analysis right the way across the organisation and we quite simply do not sufficiently robust financial systems at this stage to do that. It is not a way of avoiding the question, it simply is not there. That would be a small fraction of the total cost. That figure of £11 million for 1998 is the figure for July 1998 at Drumcree. We can do that because we know the officers who were in there that month, we know how long they were there, we know how much we paid for accommodation, catering, everything else, we know what overtime they were entitled to while they were in there. Included in that figure is the overtime elsewhere in Northern Ireland because of the extent of the violence. On a day by day, week by week basis we have officers committed to Drumcree every day of the week, particularly at the time of the weekly parades and there are knock-on parades. There are 3,200-odd parades across Northern Ireland on average every year. We hope within about two years that we will be able to cost that activity but at this stage our financial systems cannot.

  274. If I have learned one thing about you, Mr McQuillan, it is that you do not seek to avoid the questions, and I thank you for that answer and for your evidence.
  (Mr McQuillan) I think it would be a very small fraction.

  Chairman: I have two supplementary questions which have come out of the discussion today and a third that I would like to ask. Let me just verify whether any of my colleagues have any supplementary questions they want to ask arising out of the evidence which has been given to us?

Mr Thompson

  275. Two quick supplementaries. I think a lot of people might accept that if the parade had gone on it would not have cost this amount of money. Would you like to comment on that?
  (Mr McQuillan) There is a hierarchy of costs in policing. The most expensive operation on that day is always to stop a parade. It is always more difficult and more expensive to stop a parade than it is to police something through. The question is what is the consequence of attempting to police it through and, as police officers, it is not our decision to do that, it is for the Parades Commission. We are quite happy, frankly, for the Parades Commission to take that decision. Certainly in most circumstances it will be more expensive to stop a parade than to get a parade through.

  276. The second supplementary is would you accept that it is generally the view of the Loyal Orders that if the protesters come out, threaten to sit down, threaten to cause a riot, then the parade will be banned or stopped?
  (Mr McQuillan) I think I have heard them express that view. I do not necessarily share that view and in any case I would have to say the decision is for the Parades Commission. There is an issue here about balancing rights and there is European law on this issue. The legal position in Europe, under European law, is if a parade is a lawful parade it is the duty of the police, where possible, to put that parade down that route. However, that is heavily qualified by other cases in the UK which have indicated that rerouting of parades or forcing them to use alternative routes is a proportionate way of addressing the risk of public order and the risk to life and other rights that are imposed in that. There are legal issues as well and we have to operate within that legal framework.

  277. Could I endorse what my colleague has said about the way you have answered the questions, you have not dodged them.
  (Mr McQuillan) Thank you very much. My job is to try to assist the Committee in whatever way I can. This is a very complex and contentious issue.


  278. With an agreeable symmetry, Drumcree featured in your answers to my initial questions and also featured in Mr Pound's final substantive question at the end of our cross-examination. Just one question about Drumcree in terms of the timetable under which it developed as an issue. My recollection of intergovernmental conferences with the Irish Government between 1989 and 1992 is although it did arise, and it was brought up as a subject, the Garvaghy Road. It was brought up towards the end of my time in Northern Ireland rather than throughout my time. If that is so, did it arise because of the development of the estate along the Garvaghy Road which then created the drama, or was it caused by anything else?
  (Mr McQuillan) Clearly there have been demographic trends which have affected this. My personal history with this parade goes back to 1981 when I was a sergeant in Portadown and at that point the dispute focused on the outbound route of the parade which went down an array known as Obins Street. Obins Street at that point in time had become virtually 100 per cent Nationalist and there was strong local opposition, not I have to say particularly well organised, in the Nationalist community to that parade going down that section of the road and there were riots and disputes at that and on occasions police took the decision to force the parade off the route, on other occasions we took the decision to allow it to go on the route. The history goes back beyond that, Chairman. I think it is fair to say that the focus on Drumcree has arisen because of the way in which the parades issue has been galvanised, in a sense, by the emergence of residents' groups, which are very well organised and are politically well connected. In a sense that community organisation has galvanised and focused the issue and pushed it further up the political agenda.

  279. My second question relates to an answer you gave Mr McGrady when you referred to the disadvantage of moving from circumstances where the RUC would announce their determination in the context of a particular parade at the last possible moment, whereas the Parades Commission might give five days' notice and, therefore, an element of surprise was lost from the point of view of the RUC. My recollection and understanding of the Parades Commission's position is that five days is the latest they can do it although they do their best to make it as late as they can.
  (Mr McQuillan) That is right, yes.

2   Evidence not reported Back

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