THE APPOINTMENT OF THE COMMISSION
This paper provides guidance on the competition
process by which the new Chairman and members of the Parades Commission
were appointed, and the parameters used to select the successful
2. The Parades Commission is a statutory
body independent of the NIO and is outside the remit of the Commissioner
for Public Appointments (the Commissioner). It was decided that
the appointment process should, however, generally seek to follow
the Commissioner's guidelines as they represent best practice
in this area.
3. The Commission consists of a Chairman
and six other members appointed by the Secretary of State. The
Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 Schedule 1, paragraph
2(3) requires that the Secretary of State shall so exercise his
powers of appointment as to secure that as far as is practicable
the membership of the Commission is representative of the community
in Northern Ireland. As the term of office of the then Chairman
of the Commission and the then existing six members of the Commission
was due to come to an end on 18 February 2000, arrangements were
put in place for the appointment of a new Chairman and members.
4. On 8 October 1999, the Secretary of State
announced the launch of separate competitions for the post of
Chairman and for the six posts as members. Advertisements in respect
of both competitions were placed in the newspapers. Both competitions
were advertised in Northern Ireland and in the Irish Republic,
in addition, the Chairman's post was advertised in Great Britain.
5. Specified skills and qualities were required
for appointment to the Commission and it was expressly stated
that the NIO, as appointer, was committed to equality of opportunity
and to merit as the basis for appointment.
6. In addition to advertising for applications
for membership of the Commission, certain other steps were taken
to stimulate interest in the competition:
(a) The Minister of State on 8 October 1999
wrote to the leaders of all the local political parties and the
main churches asking them to encourage anyone they considered
appropriate to apply. A copy of the letter and the list of recipients
(b) Senior officials of the NIO on 8 October
1999 met their counterparts from the Irish Government and asked
them to encourage anyone they considered appropriate to apply.
7. Whilst the closing date for receipt of
applications specified in the advertisements was 5 November 1999,
the NIO was made aware, prior to that date, that further applications
for the membership would be forthcoming after that date, flowing
from the Minister of State's letter of 8 October 1999 to the leaders
of the political parties. In fact three applications were received
after 5 November 1999. Two of these were, as expected, from persons
approached by one of the political parties. The final application
was unexpected but it was considered that it would be fair to
receive it nonetheless as no action whatsoever had been taken
in relation to any of the applications at this stage. The facility
provided to receive applications after 5 November 1999 was solely
for the purpose of ensuring that as wide a range of application
as possible would be received and was offered strictly on the
basis that we had reason to believe that applications were forthcoming.
8. The Chairman's post, as originally advertised,
attracted very little interest and, as a result, was re-advertised
offering somewhat more generous terms. In addition to the publicising
of the competition as described above, the Cabinet Office was
asked to recommend, from its central register of those seeking
public appointment, candidates it deemed suitable based on the
competences we were seeking. A firm of headhunters was also engaged.
9. Interview panels were convened to consider
the applications received. That for the Chair consisted of the
Permanent Under-Secretary and one of the Senior Directors of the
NIO and two persons independent of the Government, one from each
side of the community. The panel for the membership consisted
of the same Senior Director, one other senior official, and the
same two independent members, one male and one female.
10. The interview panels had before them
the application forms of all candidates (82 for membership, 45
for the Chair) but had no information about candidates' political
views or affiliations, save insofar as these had been expressly
referred to in or could be inferred from the application forms.
Initially, the panels considered the question of shortlisting
candidates for interview; it was only after this that the membership
panel was told of the religious composition of the shortlist.
This involved determining which of the candidates in their view
met the essential competences for appointment. These competences
were set out in the advertisements as follows:
Assessing/Evaluating . . . also to evaluate
options from complex information and take account of legal constraints,
with the capacity to assess the probability of future events,
leading to clear and well informed judgements.
Decision Making . . . capable of responding
in controversial situations and determining courses of action
under significant time constraints, often during periods of continuous
pressure. This requires real intellectual stamina and resilience.
Team Working . . . a high level of interpersonal
skills enabling the individual to work within a diverse group.
Presentation . . . skilled in presenting issues
and judgement in different contexts, including media interviews.
Leadership . . . The ability to lead a diverse
group and to establish his or her authority in the wider community
at all levels, including in situations of controversy and pressure.
Assessing/Evaluating . . . as for member.
Influencing/Advising . . . Experience in chairing
a diverse range of meetings, with good listening skills and an
ability to summarise salient points leading to clear and, where
possible, consensus decisions.
Presentation . . . Capacity to set out issues
clearly and influence key groups at all levels in the community
in face to face contact or via the media.
Planning . . . Ability to formulate and follow
through strategic management objectives.
Decision making . . . as for member.
Motivating . . . Possessing a high level of
interpersonal skills and the ability to build consensus and motivate
others in a range of circumstances.
10. In their application forms, candidates
had been asked to give an account of how they had demonstrated
these competences. Shortlists of 23 candidates for interview for
membership and six for Chair were established on the basis of
how the candidates met the specified competences. Candidates were
called to interview. At the interview the panels asked each of
the candidates to give an account of how they demonstrated that
they met each of the competences required. The panels then probed
each interviewee in respect of the answers which they had provided
in each area. The panels then reached a judgement as to the relevance
and extent of each individual's experience in the context of potential
appointment to the Parades Commission.
11. The panel for membership set an overall
pass mark for interviewees of 50 per cent with a requirement that
each candidate obtained a minimum of 50 per cent in each competence.
Both hurdles had to be met. On completion of the interviews initial
markings were reviewed to ensure consistency. Candidates were
graded from 1 to 23. Sixteen candidates obtained marks above the
minimum level required. Candidates for the Chair needed 60 per
cent to be considered appointable. All six candidates interviewed
scored above this and were graded from 1 to 6.
12. The Secretary of State was recommended
to appoint the first six members in the ranking order which had
been established by the interview panel. He was also provided
with information relating to the religious or perceived religious
affiliation of those candidates for membership who had marks above
the minimum level required, and of any political affiliation declared
on the application forms. This information was supplied to him
because of the relevance of the statutory requirement to the appointment
process. He endorsed the recommendation made to him and those
to be appointed were to be approached. He also endorsed the recommendation
regarding the Chairman.
13. The appointments were to have been publicly
announced on Monday 7 February 2000 but, on Thursday 3 February
2000, it became known that one of the persons to be appointed,
who was female, was reconsidering her position. Despite efforts
to persuade this candidate to give the matter further consideration,
on Friday 4 February she gave notice that she had decided to decline
an offer of appointment. This upset the balance of the proposed
Commission both in terms of religion and gender and required an
immediate response, as the expiry of the current Commission's
term of office was imminent.
14. There was a reserve list of 10 candidates
which had been compiled in the manner described at paragraph 11
above. However, as all of the persons on the list were of Protestant
background it was not possible to draw on it without endangering
further the representativeness of the Commission in terms of religious
balance. One of the candidates on the reserve list was female.
15. In the circumstances, and bearing in
mind the requirements of anti-discrimination law in Northern Ireland,
and following consultation with the Secretary of State, it was
decided that the Secretary of State had an obligation to consider
what practicable steps could be taken to secure the representativeness
of the Commission. The five members which it was proposed to appoint
consisted of four persons of Protestant background and one of
Roman Catholic background. A number of options was urgently considered
in consultation with the Secretary of State. Among the options
(a) Promoting a candidate from the reserve
(b) Appointing only five members and later
running a competition for one member or variants of this option;
(c) Re-appointing the current Commission;
(d) Approaching directly a suitable person
with the necessary competences who could help achieve the statutory
The Secretary of State on 4 February 2000 decided
that in the exceptional circumstances which had arisen we should
approach a person directly who we judged met the necessary competences.
On this basis an existing member of the Commission who had not
applied for membership was approached but he declined to consider
appointment. An approach was then made to Mr Quinn who had considerable
experience in the context of the parades issue and had been a
facilitator in the talks concerning the Drumcree parade in 1998
and 1999. The Secretary of State met Mr Quinn personally on 7
February 2000 and Mr Quinn indicated that he would accept appointment.
16. Because of the difficulties which had
been encountered, the announcement of the appointments was put
back from 7 February 2000. An account of the appointment process
was provided to the Commission for Public Appointments before
the appointments were announced and it was explained to her why
one of the appointees was appointed by the means described in
paragraph 15 above. A response was received from the Commissioner
to the effect that she was satisfied that we had made every effort
to ensure both that the Commission was representative of the community,
as far as practicable, and had been appointed on merit. The appointments
were announced on 16 February 2000.
17. In the view of the Secretary of State,
all of the six persons appointed were suitable for appointment
to the Commission and had the necessary competences to carry out
the duties of a member. Each appointment was made on merit. In
making the appointments overall, the Secretary of State was mindful
of the statutory requirement in paragraph 2(3) of Schedule 1 to
the Act. The Secretary of State was also mindful, however, of
the fact that he could act only within the limits of practicality
and lawfulness in seeking to secure the objective of the statutory
requirement. The extreme difficulty of achieving an exact mirror
image of society in Northern Ireland in a body comprising a Chairman
and six members was recognised. This practical reality did not,
however, deter the Secretary of State from seeking to fulfil the
statutory requirement. In the event, the effect of the appointments
is that the Commission has four persons of Protestant background
and two persons of Catholic background. When measured against
what is arguably the most salient division in Northern Ireland
society, the sectarian division, the Commission is representative
of the community in Northern Ireland.
18. The appointments described in this memorandum
are currently the subject of a judicial review being brought by
a member of the Garvaghy Road Residents' Coalition, on grounds,
primarily, that they do not represent the community of Northern
Ireland either in terms of community balance or of gender.