Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360
WEDNESDAY 31 JANUARY 2001
360. And funding?
(Mr Campbell) We are core funded by the Community
Relations Council. That is primarily for a percentage of staff
salaries. We have to generate income from some of our work: some
of our work drains income; some of it generates income, like the
parades work or the police work, but we also charge for some other
aspects of our work. We appeal to foundations and trusts and we
make ends meet in that way.
361. Very roughly the core funding from the
CRC would be what sort of percentage?
(Mr McAllister) There are I think 35 core funded groups
in Northern Ireland, groups which receive core funding from the
Community Relations Council with money drawn from the Westminster
Exchequer, and we receive the second highest grant award of those
groups, the highest being the Corrymeela Community. Last year
our funding, according to the information provided by our finance
officer, was £126,000.
362. That is the CRC amount?
(Mr McAllister) That is the CRC grant. It is about
25 per cent of our budget that is directly drawn from that grant.
Aside from that I can submit a detailed list for Members if you
think that would be helpful. We charge the Northern Ireland Office
for our work on policing and also receive a grant from the State
Department in Washington towards that work and also from the Ireland
Funds. We also received grants more recently from the Rockefeller
Foundation and the United States Institute of Peace. At home we
charge people commercially where we can, but a lot of our work
needs to be subsidised because community based activity cannot
pay its way. We really rob Peter to pay Paul at times, if you
will pardon that expression.
(Mr Campbell) Often we are doing local mediation peace
line disputes or neighbour disputes and our society is not ready
to pay for that sort of thing so those are loss makers. That is
fine. We are happy to do that because we can get money from elsewhere
to subsidise that.
363. In Mr McAllister's earlier remarks about
your activities we began to get a feel for your interpretation
of mediation, but would you like to give a rather fuller definition
of what you think mediation to be?
(Mr McAllister) I should say as well that I have written
about mediation throughout my tenure in my job from 1992 and,
looking back, historically I can see that my views on it move
all the time and that we are constantly refining and nuancing
what mediation should mean in our context. My current view concurs
with a growing view in the European Union about what is called
"social mediation". To put it in a nutshell, I would
suggest to you that mediation is about assisting communication
between individuals or groups in conflict first of all, in order
to manage or overcome estrangement and to effect positive change.
We are assuming that people become estranged from each other.
They are very often in conflict with people whom they know but
there are aspects to the other that they find strange and incomprehensible.
We have developed a way of keeping our society stable which involves
Catholic and Protestant living together, encountering a lot about
each other but not accessing certain parts of each other. There
are aspects of Catholics that Protestants perhaps do not quite
understand and vice versa, and it is out of that area of estrangement
that a lot of misunderstandings grow, that conflicting perceptions
and expectations develop, and it is around those kinds of issues
that we look to use mediation, to create safety for people to
discuss these matters. Basically mediation is about two things:
firstly, it is about helping people with particular disputes,
and there what you are trying to do is to help people manage disputes
or resolve them. I can say a word about that in a minute which
is very pertinent to parades. Secondly, the other function of
mediation is to help citizens to develop a fair and agreed social
order, that there must be an "order" to people's world
or context. Our view therefore is that with regard to parades
the social order that needs to exist in a particular parading
locality has broken down in Northern Ireland. The relationships
that are necessary to maintain consensus around the parading tradition
have either broken down or they were never right in the first
place. Just to go back to the issue of intervention in disputes,
it is sometimes thought that to enter mediation means that you
are now expected to love your enemy and to give the enemy respect.
We would disagree with that. Mediation, when it is done well,
moves forward in mini steps and we have a saying that "it
takes as long as it takes". In that respect sometimes our
work is about helping people to manage their enduring enmity rather
than moving quickly to an unrealistic expectation of respect.
364. If you were drawing up a balance sheet
what would you say were the limitations of the process? I have
got some sense of what you think the strengths are from what you
have already said but, as I have asked about liabilities, let
me ask about the assets as well.
(Mr McAllister) One of the liabilities is that the
world does not easily understand what I have just said. There
are a number of very reasonable agendas at work when you are talking
about societal conflict. Governments have their own political
needs, as do political parties, and sometimes the pace of political
change is perhaps faster than the pace of societal change. When
we are trying to work more on societal change there is sometimes
an expectation that mediators need to move people on the ground
as quickly as politicians can move and in our experience that
is not the case. Another drawback is that sometimes there are
other pressing issues that are perhaps more important than building
new relationships among protagonists, for instance, public order.
Sometimes the police are very conscious of a worsening public
order situation and that can put pressure on people trying to
promote reconciliation, a pressure in that there may be very good
legitimate reasons for police wanting to see an end to a conflict
situation or a stabilisation to take place, but it might take
a long time to create that. People are moving at different paces
with different expectations.
365. At the risk of being unduly semantic, in
what way would mediation differentiate from either facilitation
(Mr McAllister) It would be important to give you
in a sense a topology of conflict intervention methods here if
you do not mind. First of all, the basic one, that most human
beings engage in on a daily basis is "negotiation".
It is just part of the fabric of life. In negotiation, however,
the person who comes out of it best is the one who can make the
best argument or gather the most power and the less powerful people
usually come out of negotiation worst. That creates a sense of
grievance which does not necessarily stabilise conflict, but most
of the time it does work sufficiently for matters to be sorted
and most of it is informal. Another form of conflict intervention
is "conciliation". In conciliation the third party,
the mediator type, is working with one side without an expressed
commitment to work at the same time with the other side. In that
contact the conciliator is trying to encourage in this side more
inclusive thinking. It has often been said that we are an entrenched
society, so our people are used to living, as it were, in mental
trenches, and indeed in many cases demographically many people
live apart as well. One is trying to bring a sense of "the
other side" into discussions with one side at a time to enable
them better to understand their opponent. A conciliator therefore
is simply trying to do that in a gentle way without creating a
pressure on either side to send each other messages or communicate
with each other. "Mediation", however, involves an express
intention to facilitate communication between opposing sides.
There are many sub forms of mediation, however, and some of these
have been attempted in the parades dispute. The best known and
most obvious one is what is called the North American model and
that is face to face mediation. In our culture I would contend
that people do not easily come face to face when they are in conflict
and they prefer to deal with things indirectly, so there is a
lot of to-ing and fro-ingwhat is sometimes called shuttle
mediation, which we also call inter-mediation. Beyond mediation
there is "adjudication" and that is where people cannot
agree on something. They make a case to a third party and that
party decides for them. In a sense the North report recommended
that kind of process and it was then implicitly adopted in the
workings of the Parades Commission. That would be a point of interest
perhaps to your Committee, that the differences between these
functions have become unhelpfully blurred but the basic expectation
of North was that either a parade has consensus around it or it
is contentious. If it is contentious can the people who want to
parade and those who are against them sort it out? If they cannot,
can they receive help from a third party, in other words a mediator?
If that does not work then the matter must be adjudicated on.
That is the basic thinking around North.
366. The statutory role of the Parades Commission
talks about it needing to promote and facilitate mediation as
a means of resolving disputes. You have just given us your own
definition of mediation and explanations of its operations and
distinctions between specific disputes and agreed social orders,
for instance, as something that you have conducted within it.
How far do you see the Parades Commission as sharing some of your
horizons about what it is that mediation is and where it is applicable,
or are some of the things you said in terms of the definition
that apply to the Parades Commission and some that do not?
(Mr McAllister) It is fair to observe that we are
now historically speaking about two Parades Commissions. The first
Parades Commission, during its tenure, refined its understanding
of the problem. It developed a civic vision, if you like, about
parades which was not very popular but it applied that vision
to all of its decisions and thinking. That was basically in agreement
with our kind of perspective around how conflict gets sorted out.
In the perspective of a mediator, conflict gets sorted out when
people who are in conflict address their relationship. The new
Parades Commission is at an earlier phase of development. Of course
it is building on the work of its predecessor but they have yet
to form their mature views, if you like, which come about after
a period in office. They are only entering into their second year
so I can say that, looking backwards, the previous Parades Commission
would have accepted a lot of our analysis about how mediation
can work in a parades dispute. The new Parades Commission we have
given this kind of advice to as well; we have shared these perspectives
with them, but I am not in a position to say yet what conclusions
they will draw from receiving that advice.
367. There is sometimes a distinction between
theory and practice. You are saying that the first Parades Commission,
at least in theory, came towards something quite similar to your
understanding of the situation. It might not yet have been spelt
out in the present Commission but do you feel that the practices
that are involved in it, the continuing tradition in the new Parades
Commission, are in line with what your thinking is?
(Mr McAllister) I think that they are certainly endeavouring
to apply themselves to these matters. However, I think that they
have inherited a difficulty and that is that there is insufficient
demarcation between the three major functions of the Parades Commission
in the public mind. The first of those functions is education
about the parades traditions (and we have more than one parades
tradition). The second is to encourage the activity of mediation,
and the third is to adjudicate where there is no agreement. Because
the Parades Commission has become best known in the public mind
as an adjudication body then its interest in the other two matters
is given less attention. In a sense, in theory it makes sense
to have a body that has an interest in those three issues, but
in practice I think it is fair to say that there is a kind of
conflict of interest in that regard.
(Mr Campbell) It is also, Mr Barnes, very difficult
for lay people to be brought in. We kind of "live" this
work and it becomes our everyday work. These are people coming
in for one and a half or two days a week. They came in just this
time last year, I think in February, and were plunged right into
the situation with the timing of the first parade on St Patrick's
Day, so it was a big learning curve. I suppose that is one of
our concerns, that there was only one of the old Commission who
stayed on and the continuity gets broken and there has to be a
whole new learning curve. It does not contribute to the growing
body of learning that there should be.
368. I detect that you feel there have been
some difficulties. How much involvement has your Network had with
the Parades Commission over its development of policy in relation
(Mr McAllister) Our involvement in the parades conflict
needs to be understood around three matters. First of all, we
have been active in the parades conflict since 1995, before the
creation of a Parades Commission, and we are still involved in
a practice (as mediators) which tries to address problems around
parades on the ground independently of the Parades Commission,
in our own right. Our involvement with the Commission has centred
on two things: first of all, recruiting, training and supporting
the team of field officers known as "Authorised Officers"
who are meant to develop as practitioners in the localities where
there are disputes around parades. So we have been trying to help
that body form, train and mature. The third issue is around giving
advice to the Commission. In that respect this goes back to what
we have just been saying, that we gave a lot of advice to the
first Commission in helping it come to an understanding of mediation
and its potential in the parades dispute. We have less contact
with the new Commission but we do on a regular basis give our
view about what mediation can do in a parades dispute to the Chairman
and also to the head of the secretariat.
369. Obviously you have got experience and strongly
worked out views about mediation, and I think you would like to
see those maybe being reflected a bit more by the Parades Commission.
(Mr McAllister) Yes.
370. What do you see as a way ahead in order
to achieve that? It might be that in working with Authorised Officers
and others on other activities the mediation aspect begins to
come forward a bit more. Do you just feel that you need greater
access to the Parades Commission in order to discuss those matters?
(Mr McAllister) No, because we do not have a problem
with access. If we wanted a meeting with the Commission we could
have a meeting with them. We are in contact with them. There is
an integrity issue for us in this regard because there is a subtlety
involved in having a specific function of giving advice about
mediation. It would be our experience that some people involved
in the parades conflict would confuse our role and in some way
think that we have an executive authority of some kind. In order
to avoid any perception of a conflict of interest we have to keep
our contact with the Parades Commission precise and specific and
limit it to the function of mediation.
371. Maybe we need some practical cases and
problems. I do not know whether it is Drumcree or wherever. How
effective has the Parades Commission been since its inception
in promoting mediation as a means of resolving disputes?
(Mr McAllister) It would be important here, Mr Barnes,
to go back to the functions of mediation which I spoke about at
the start, that on the one hand mediation works well when people
are ready to use it to manage or overcome or resolve a dispute.
It also works well when people are willing to use it to address
the wider social context within which the dispute arises, which
I call here "the social order". Most of what mediation
has done with regard to the parades conflict has been to address
the social order. A lot of work has gone into establishing relationships,
building trust, learning about conflict with people and hearing
their perspectives and being taught by them, and also encouraging
forums to develop in the community and the best established forum
is currently being run by Newry and Mourne District Council. It
involves people from the Orange and Nationalist traditions and
the Unionist tradition engaging with each other as citizens. People
are meeting as citizens even though they take very different views
on the parades dispute. We have concentrated on creating a safe
space. It is not confidential, what I am saying. It is simply
not public. It is not secret; it is simply a private space for
people to come together and talk as citizens, as independent individuals.
Each of these people comes from various sides of the parades conflict.
We are now involved in a similar piece of work in Ballymoney Borough
Council at the invitation of the Mayor. We have explored the idea
of forums in other parts of Northern Ireland but they are difficult
to establish because people are so afraid of compromising their
integrity in some way by engaging with opponents, so it takes
quite a long while to establish that. In summation, specifically
we are promoting the idea of forums. Secondly, we have been involved
in the building of relationships among people who are relevant
to the parades conflict in particular areas, and thirdly, we have
actually intervened in certain disputes. We were involved in Drumcree
in 1995 and we have been involved in Dunloy in 1996 and 1997,
and in Newry in 1998 and 2000, and various other parts of Northern
Ireland. It may be that I am getting your question wrong. You
are specifically interested in the Parades Commission's activities,
so forgive me for that. That is a point I have made in my written
submission. The Parades Commission historically has deferred to
government-led initiatives with regard to mediation throughout
its history to date.
372. So has it used the techniques you were
talking about, the mechanisms by which you approach it? Has the
Parades Commission made much use of any of those, or is this an
entirely different way of operating?
(Mr McAllister) No, not really. They have made use
of our perspectives on the conflict as a way of helping them learn
about it. They have made use therefore indirectly of the relationships
which we have built up with people on opposing sides, and that
hopefully in time refines their own understanding of the complex
problem they are trying to manage. In terms of mediation initiatives
around particular parades disputes, they have deferred to government.
373. Are there any particular mechanisms that
you feel are very useful in the work that you have been engaged
in that you would recommend the Commission adopting which they
are missing out on by deferring to government approaches and attitudes
about the problems and where they could take an initiative in
(Mr McAllister) Yes. Again, I refer to this in my
written submission. One of the things that mediators do when conflict
becomes stuck is to "re-frame" the conflict, the problems:
describe the problems in a new way that perhaps creates new perspectives
and new avenues of thought. The Parades Commission could re-frame
the parades conflict. Many people think the Parades Commission
exists for Drumcree. Drumcree is the most significant parades
dispute in Northern Ireland and it is certainly central to the
wider parades conflict, but there is a wider societal conflict
about the parading traditions. The Parades Commission has a responsibility
for that. It could perhaps establish a clearer understanding in
the public mind. That indeed is its basic interest, that it is
not just taken up with one parades dispute. Also, they could,
as I said, create clearer demarcation around their various functions,
around education, around the activity of mediation, and also around
adjudication. I do believe that in theory it is a fine thing for
the Parades Commission to have a responsibility for making mediation
happen, but in practice I think it has become difficult because
the various sides in Northern Ireland are very often afraid to
enter mediation on the parades dispute because there is some kind
of inference that if the mediation process happens and ends without
agreement, and the Parades Commission then take on board that
mediation process when making a decision, and if the Parades Commission
find in favour of one side based on how it has handled itself
in the mediation process, then the losing side would view mediation
as no longer credible. They would view it as a form of entrapment.
The difficulty you have in the parades conflict is that we go
from one year to another and some people may approach a problem
this year in a short-term way and do things that actually for
now sort something out but they actually do not improve the conditions
for a longer term resolution. I have come to a view that it should
nearly be a practice guideline, a commonly and widely understood
one, that the role of mediation in the parades conflict should
not involve the search for agreement about particular parades
disputes. In other words, mediation can help people who are at
odds with each other to engage with each other without prejudicing
their contradictory stance on a parade. If mediation does its
work well it will create sufficient confidence, trust, respect
and a proper context within which they might decide to enter a
quite separate process of negotiation or conciliation about reaching
374. Mr Barnes has elicited some of the information
that I was trying to elicit but, to follow on from Mr Barnes,
are you really saying that your current thinking is that mediation
should be of a general nature and that the Parades Commission
in the future should not ask you or anybody else who is expert
in the field, "We have got a parade in three or four weeks'
time. Let us try a bit of mediation"? Is that what you are
saying, that that might have been the thinking in the past but
you would now not recommend that?
(Mr McAllister) Yes. If you read the report that I
wrote for the previous Parades Commission on Drumcree you will
see that an observation I make is that people view mediation with
great suspicion. It depends on who appears to have asked for it.
If one side appears to be on board with the idea of a mediation
initiative before the other, then the second side will be suspicious
as to why. Therefore, the conditions of the parades conflict make
it very difficult to practise mediation if it is seen to be something
that is part of an unspoken agenda, a hidden agenda of some kind
that sometimes both sides view as sinister because there is so
much suspicion around. All I am saying is that it is right and
proper that the Parades Commission should have a responsibility
to try to make mediation happen. It should clearly be understood
by the general public though that the Parades Commission should
not itself mediate. There has been a problem with expectations
around some of the Commissioners in that regard because they have
a background in conflict intervention, but I think there is a
conflict of interest between someone who has an adjudicatory and
education role on the one hand and mediation on the other, which
is quite separate. It is clear in my mind that the legislation
and its intention is clear in that; that the Police Authority
members, for instance, are not responsible to go out on the street
and police but they have a responsibility to make sure that policing
happens, and it is the same with the Parades Commission.
375. Do you worry from your own point of view
that if you get too involved with the Parades Commission people
might get a blurred idea of what you do and see you as an adjunct
(Mr McAllister) Yes.
376. And that might weaken some of your other
activities which I will ask you to go through again?
(Mr McAllister) Absolutely. This is part of what we
call trench work. Because we are always trying to go into the
trenches of opposing sides, when you come back from one trench
into another you have the "scent of the enemy" about
you. People have looked through their binoculars and have seen
you consorting there, so it is very difficult to avoid suspicion.
377. It was not entirely clear to me whether
you thought the first Parades Commission or the second one was
better at facilitating mediation and whether they had done it.
You implied that they had done it in a slightly different way
but I was not clear which you thought had done it better, and
how their methods differed.
(Mr McAllister) I appreciate that the way that I couched
my remarks may have inferred that, but I really do not wish to
give that impression. I am simply saying that the first Parades
Commission took a body of citizens with no prior experience for
the most part of the parades conflict and during their tenure
they learned about it so that by the end of their time they were
more on top of their brief than at the start. The new Parades
Commission goes through the same process. It takes a new body
of citizens, almost all of whom are new to the parades issue,
and they too have to take time to master their brief and learn
the ins and outs of the problem.
378. I want to change gear slightly. How has
responsibility for Authorised Officers been divided hitherto between
the Network and the Commission?
(Mr Campbell) We have taken responsibility in the
past, Chairman, for recruiting those Authorised Officers, for
ongoing training of them and for supervision of them. They are
deployed in twos around the Province. They are divided across
in all six counties, primarily Catholic and Protestant as far
as possible working together when we can get that recruitment
right, and male and female as far as possible working together.
From 1 April this coming year, we will hand over that responsibility
of supervision and indeed payment to the Parades Commission itself.
We feel that that will aid the education process among the Commissioners
and among the secretariat of the Commission.
379. Can I ask why responsibility for Authorised
Officers is to transfer to the Parades Commission on 1 April 2001
and why did the Network propose this course of action?
(Mr McAllister) For three reasons, Mr Pound. First
of all, the Authorised Officer team is now established for three
years. We feel that we have, if you like, mentored their evolution
and that they now need to be given the space to get on with it
on the ground and, if you like, look less to us for advice and
support. Secondly, we think that the efficiency and understanding
or sensitivity of the Parades Commission will be improved if there
is a more immediate contact between the field officers and the
secretariat, that the kind of advice that they will get directly
will improve, and so we think it will be a more efficient arrangement.
Thirdly, a difficulty for us is that we have other things to do
and we cannot simply give the parades problem the same amount
of time year on year. We are trying to stay in touch with the
problem. We are open to our own practice but we think that our
involvement with the Authorised Officers can be reduced now because
they are at a stage where they can get on with the work.
(Mr Campbell) The Parades Commission annual report
has a large sum of money against mediation and in fact The Mediation
Network, most of which comes in through our books and out to the
Authorised Officers. We think that that is bad for the Commission
and also bad for our organisation. We are handing over that responsibility
of paying those Authorised Officers directly to the Commission.