Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 280 - 285)



  280. I do not want to ask you to second guess the Parades Commission's judgment but what are the factors that make them take so much earlier a decision than you do?
  (Mr McQuillan) I think there is a different legislative framework. They have to allow time for people to ask for a review. They have to allow time, if necessary, if we wish to appeal to the Secretary of State. This is an area where we have to recognise that the European Convention on Human Rights is a significant issue. I believe that because of the European Convention it is probable that if the RUC were still making those decisions today we would not be able to do what we have done in the past, which was done in the interests of the community but was probably not compliant with the Convention. Therefore, I feel the Commission do the best they can in the circumstances to be fair to all parties. I do not want to overplay that. It is an issue for us, it just forces us to be a bit cleverer and to do things differently. We have to live with it, it is a legal requirement in a democratic society and we have just got to live with the issue.

  281. My final question, which is supernumerary and does not come out of the answers you have already given, is do you ever find that a parade in respect of which a determination has been made, in other words that it should be able to go forward, does not take place?
  (Mr McQuillan) I am trying to remember if we have had any recently. I do not think we have, Chairman. I made a note to myself here to come back on the last question to add one further item. The Parades Commission issues a determination five days in advance but on the day of any parade we would consider the operational situation and there might be circumstances where we would decide that the risks involved in a particular parade were so difficult that we would have to take a decision to do something other than the Commission's determination. That would only be absolutely in extremis. Legally we would be required to do that if, for example, we considered because of a certain circumstance there was a huge risk to life in complying with the Commission's determination. We would have the power to refer to the Secretary of State if there were time but we might actually have to take that decision. I am not aware of any case where a parade has not gone ahead when the Commission have determined that it could.

  282. You perfectly understandably have answered my question on the basis of an intervention or a decision by somebody other than the paraders, and I am most grateful for the answer you gave, but I was actually thinking in the context of the paraders, where the paraders had received permission to march but decided not to.
  (Mr McQuillan) No, we have not. I cannot think of one, Chairman. We have had cases where paraders have had a determination that they cannot go along a particular section of route and they have abandoned the entire parade.

  283. I will not play games with you. It arose out of the evidence by the Apprentice Boys who said some of the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community parades which had been authorised for particular hours of the morning had not in the fullness of time been carried out.
  (Mr McQuillan) Inspector McGarry has some knowledge of this.

  284. I think all of us would be delighted to have Inspector McGarry have the last word.
  (Mr McGarry) The legislation requires 28 days' notice to be given of a parade. It is quite often the case that the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community will give notice of intent to parade to oppose what they view as a sectarian parade and give that as a reason. On the day, five days' in advance, the determination from the Parades Commission could be that the parade by the Loyal Order will not pass down the Lower Ormeau Road, therefore the LOCC do not hold a counter protest or parade.

  Chairman: What that exchange has demonstrated is that is the only instance where that particular series of events occurs.

Mr McGrady

  285. I was going to inform yourselves and the Committee that there have been circumstances where the paraders, as you referred to them, have voluntarily altered their route in order to facilitate a better community response in the area.
  (Mr McQuillan) Voluntary alterations of route and other restrictions in terms of not playing music have been negotiated. I was going to say there is also the issue of related protests. In a number of cases we will find that a parade is notified and we will get notice of a counter protest but we know quite well from intelligence and other sources that no steps have been taken to organise that and it is thrown in as part of the process of negotiation and evidence gathering.

  Chairman: Let me endorse and reiterate what various other Members of the Committee have said to you, not only on the previous occasion on this, that we have greatly admired the manner in which you have given evidence and the evidence that you have given. I give you a guarantee from the Chair that we will not deliberately engineer an inquiry which will provide us with a third occasion on which to take evidence from you but were it to occur it is something to which the whole Committee would look forward.

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