Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Second Report


The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has agreed to the following Report:—



1. Controversies over public processions and parades in Northern Ireland are not new. Neither is controversy restricted to parades associated with one particular view point. For substantial periods in the nineteenth century, all parades in Ireland were prohibited by law.

2. It was controversy concerning parades and protests against them in Portadown in the summer of 1996 which led to the establishment by the Government of an independent review of parades and marches. The review team, chaired by Dr Peter North, reported in January 1997.[2] One of the principal recommendations of the report was the establishment of a Parades Commission which, amongst other functions, would have the power in respect of contentious parades, where mediation had failed, to issue determinations imposing conditions on the parade in question.[3]

3. The Government subsequently brought forward legislation to establish a non-departmental public body to be known as the Parades Commission for Northern Ireland, and to amend the law more generally in relation to public processions there. The Commission had, however, been established on a non-statutory basis on 27 March 1997, acquiring its statutory functions when the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 entered into force on 16 February 1998.[4]

4. The Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 formally established the Parades Commission and made statutory provision for the Commission to issue a Code of Conduct, procedural rules and guidelines. The Act provides for drafts of each of these to be subject to Parliamentary approval before coming into effect. The versions currently in force were approved by the House on 19 July 1999. The Commission was given power to impose conditions on public processions while having regard to the guidelines. We describe further the functions of the Commission in paragraph 17 below. The Act also introduced a number of changes and extensions of the law in relation to the regulation of public processions.

5. The establishment of the Parades Commission was not universally welcomed and the Orange Order, in particular, has consistently declined to engage with it. In October 1999, the Secretary of State announced that she was asking officials to examine, within the established framework of legal and administrative arrangements, ways of achieving greater acceptance of the approach to handling contentious parades. The outcome of the review was announced in February 2000, at the same time as the appointment of the new Chairman and members of the Commission. We consider further the outcome of the review in paragraph 69 below.

6. As a non-departmental public body, the members of which are appointed by the Secretary of State, the Parades Commission is fully within our remit. In March 2000, we therefore decided to conduct an inquiry into the Commission with the following terms of reference:

    "To examine the operation of the Parades Commission since its inception and to consider, within the existing framework of law and structures and in the light of the conclusions of the Northern Ireland Office's review of the Commission, how its effectiveness might be enhanced."

7. For this inquiry, we were keen to get as wide a range a cross-section as possible of views on the operations of the Commission. We made extensive efforts to ensure that as wide a range as possible of the relevant interests, on all sides, had the opportunity to contribute to our proceedings. We are most grateful to the many who have done so.

8. In using expressions such as 'loyalist' and 'nationalist', we have throughout employed the descriptors used by witnesses, but we allude further to these descriptors in relation to the table in paragraph 29.

9. We took oral evidence on nine occasions. Beside the Commission, oral evidence was taken from representatives of the following organisations:

  • Apprentice Boys of Derry
  • Bogside Residents' Group
  • Democratic Dialogue
  • Loyal Orange Institution of Ireland
  • Mediation Network for Northern Ireland
  • Portadown District Loyal Orange Lodge No. 1
  • Royal Ulster Constabulary.

We also took oral evidence from the Rt Hon Adam Ingram, JP, MP, Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, Northern Ireland Office officials and the Rt Hon David Trimble, MLA, MP.

10. Besides those giving oral evidence, written evidence was received from:

  • Archbishop Robin Eames, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland
  • Committee on the Administration of Justice
  • Community Relations Council
  • Democratic Unionist Party
  • Equality Commission for Northern Ireland
  • Imperial Grand Black Chapter of the British Commonwealth
  • Independent Loyal Orange Institution
  • Lower Ormeau Concerned Community
  • Mr Christopher Luke
  • Mr Richard Monteith, LLB
  • Mr Austen Morgan, LLB
  • Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission
  • Northern Ireland Unionist Party
  • Northern Ireland Women's Coalition
  • Presbyterian Church in Ireland
  • Sinn Fein
  • Mr William Thompson, MP
  • Ulster Bands Association

11. We would like to thank all those who have contributed to the evidence, written and oral, that we have received. Besides taking evidence, we visited Northern Ireland on 12 July 2000, specifically to see some of the parades held on that day and to see, at first hand, their impact on the local communities.


12. The Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 imposes four specific duties[5] on the Commission:

  • to promote greater understanding by the general public of issues concerning public processions;
  • to promote and facilitate mediation as a means of resolving disputes concerning public processions;
  • to keep itself generally informed as to the conduct of public processions and protest meetings; and
  • to keep under review, and make such recommendations as it thinks fit, to the Secretary of State concerning the operation of this Act.

In addition, as already mentioned, the Commission has a statutory obligation to issue a Code of Conduct, procedural rules and a set of guidelines concerning the exercise of its powers to impose conditions on public processions.[6] It also has powers:[7]

  • to facilitate mediation between parties to particular disputes concerning proposed public processions and take such other steps as appear to the Commission to be appropriate for resolving such disputes; and
  • to issue determinations in respect of particular proposed public processions.

In connection with the duties and powers described above, the Commission may, with the approval of the Secretary of State, provide financial or other assistance to any person or body on such terms and conditions as it may determine, and it may commission research.

13. A person proposing to organise a public procession is required to give notice to an officer in the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) not below the rank of sergeant, at the police station nearest to the proposed starting place of that procession, not less than 28 days (or if that is not reasonably practicable, as soon as is reasonably practicable) before the parade. This is done by completing the prescribed form, Form 11/1. The RUC is required to forward a copy of the completed form to the Commission immediately.

14. In similar fashion, a person proposing to organise a related protest meeting with the intention of demonstrating opposition to the holding of a public procession is required to give notice in similar fashion not less than 14 days (or if that is not reasonably practicable, as soon as is reasonably practicable) before the meeting is to be held. This is done by completing the prescribed form, Form 11/3. The RUC is required to forward a copy of the completed form to the Commission immediately.

15. Under section 8 of the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998, the Commission may issue a determination in respect of a proposed public procession imposing conditions on the organisers or the participants. A determination, once made, may be amended or revoked. In considering whether to make a determination, or what conditions a determination might impose, the Commission is required to have regard to the guidelines. These are required[8] in particular to provide for the Commission to have regard to:

  • any public disorder or damage to property which may result from the procession;
  • any disruption to the life of the community which the procession may cause;
  • any impact which the procession may have on relationships within the community;
  • any failure of a person of a description in the guidelines to comply with the Code of Conduct (whether in relation to the procession in question or any related protest meeting or in relation to any previous procession or protest meeting); and
  • the desirability of allowing a procession customarily held along a particular route to be held along that route.

The Commission has no powers, however, in relation to protest meetings. The imposition of conditions on such meetings is a matter for the RUC under public order legislation.[9]

16. The Commission has no powers to prohibit a public procession: this is a matter for the Secretary of State.[10] The Secretary of State may also, on an application made by the Chief Constable, review a determination by the Commission and substitute his own judgement.[11] This then in effect supersedes the Commission determination. However, the RUC told us[12] that it has not yet considered it necessary to appeal to the Secretary of State to review a determination which, it considered, demonstrated its "broad confidence ... in the system."[13]


17. The Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 provides for the Commission to be a body corporate, consisting of a chairman and not more than six other members.[14] Its members are appointed by the Secretary of State. In making appointments, the Secretary of State is required[15] "to secure that as far as is practicable the membership of the Commission is representative of the community in Northern Ireland." The present Chairman and members were appointed with effect from 19 February 2000 for a period of two years.

18. The Commission is funded by a grant-in-aid from the Northern Ireland Office. It is a relatively small organisation, with an annual budget of around £1 million and a staff of 11 to 12.[16]

19. The composition of the Commission has been controversial in a number of respects. The Apprentice Boys of Derry (ABOD) were critical of the fact that neither Chairman of the Commission had been from Northern Ireland and considered that, as a result, both lacked relevant experience.[17] The Garvaghy Road Residents' Coalition sought a judicial review of the current appointments, primarily on the grounds that they do not represent the community of Northern Ireland either in terms of community balance or of gender.[18] The application was unsuccessful.[19] There has been criticism that the present Commission does not contain any members perceived as reflecting the direct interests of any marching orders. The Equality Commission expressed concern to us that there were no women on the Commission[20] and about the possible conclusions that might be drawn therefrom. Sinn Féin commented[21] of the previous Commission "Its composition, with an overwhelming preponderance of people with connections to the RUC and the Unionist community, has fatally flawed it in the eyes of most nationalists" and called for the new Commission to be "broadly based and should include some people who are drawn from working class nationalist areas and who are sympathetic to Republican politics". A number of other witnesses also expressed concern about some aspects of its composition.[22]

20. We appreciate that, in present circumstances, somebody potentially acceptable to the Loyal Orders might well become unacceptable by virtue of appointment to the Commission. Therefore, an improvement in relations between the Loyal Orders and the Commission is a necessary precursor of such an appointment.

21. The Northern Ireland Office submitted a memorandum describing the appointment process for the current membership in some detail, and the difficulties experienced.[23] It argued that, despite these difficulties "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". It also noted that the Commissioner for Public Appointments agreed 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."

22. Although it was unfortunate that the withdrawal of one candidate for appointment to the Commission, at a very late stage, upset the balance of the proposed Commission both in religion and gender, this simply demonstrates the acute shortage of suitably qualified women candidates and candidates from a Catholic background who were available for appointment.

23. We recommend that, when the next round of appointments is due to be made, particular efforts are made to attract high calibre candidates from sections of the community which are presently under-represented on the Commission.

24. The Parades Commission described the situation it was faced with when it took up its statutory role in February 1998 as "entrenched intransigence on both sides, intransigence which in the past had led to conflict and confrontation .... Unionists made no secret of their distaste for the legislation which created the Commission and the Orange Order steadfastly refused to meet with it.... On the other side, the Commission was castigated by leaders of some of the higher profile residents groups who, at different times, feared that it was part of some wider political conspiracy to link parades to the peace process."[24] The Commission sees the reason for its existence as the failure of both sides of the community with diverse cultural, religious and political traditions and aspirations to achieve agreement on the ground rules for peaceful co-existence.[25]

25. Besides transferring the responsibility for taking decisions on parades from the police to the Parades Commission, the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 broadened the range of factors to be taken into account in taking decisions. In particular, the Commission sees a change of emphasis away from public order to include "important new considerations like the impact on relations in the community." The Commission told us that this has been the key element in its judgements in a majority of cases involving contentious parades.[26] Judicial decisions have, in its view, confirmed the propriety of its interpreting 'community' to relate to the wider Northern Ireland community, as well as the immediate community in which the parade takes place.[27]

26. The RUC observed[28] that, since the establishment of the Commission, the proportion of parades considered to be contentious has increased. In the period 1992 to 1997, about 0.8% of parades had conditions imposed on them by the RUC. The corresponding proportion the subject of determinations by the Commission is 3.9%, a more than fourfold increase. The RUC attributed this principally to two factors: the broadening of the factors to be considered in relation to parades and the establishment, through the Authorised Officers, of new conduits of communication that previously did not exist, particularly in relation to some residents' groups.[29] It conceded also that other factors might be involved, such as less tolerance of controversial parades, the routine notification of proposed Orange Order parades along the Garvaghy Road in Portadown, and intentions on the part of some to exploit the parades issue politically.[30]

27. The Commission describes, as an overall goal, its wish "to reach a situation in which parades can take place in an atmosphere of mutual respect."[31] It considers that "only by dialogue will resolution to contentious parades be found." In its opinion, direct dialogue represents the best means of exchanging views and demonstrating due respect of other interests, but "where such dialogue is problematic all parties should spare no effort in finding a mutually acceptable form of communication."[32] The Commission considers each contentious parade independently[33] and seeks wherever possible to facilitate local resolution of any difficulties.

28. In seeking to fulfil its overall goal, the Commission makes clear its view that there is a right to parade, as there is to protest, "but these rights are not absolute."[34] It also seeks to ensure that in proposing engagement,[35] it makes a distinction between 'engaging' and 'seeking permission', and also seeks to send out a clear message that "those who oppose parades have no right of veto."[36] The Commission, in fulfilment of its statutory obligation, seeks, where appropriate, to promote mediation, although it does not seek to prescribe the precise form.[37]


29. The tables below give data for 1998-99 and 1999-2000, as supplied by the Parades Commission,[38] for the number of parades notified and, of those, the numbers categorised as 'loyalist' or 'nationalist'. In our opinion, the descriptors 'loyalist' and 'nationalist' run some risk of being misconstrued. If the Commission are to publish such statistics regularly, some greater definitional refinement would probably be desirable. This would also apply to statistics derived from such data, including analyses of the incidence of route restrictions and other conditions. The tables also show the numbers of parades considered by the Commission to be potentially contentious and, of those, the numbers on which the Commission imposed either route restrictions or conditions.

Total parades
1998- 99
1999- 2000

· Data not available.[39]

Total potentially contentious parades
Route restrictions
Conditions only
TotalLoyalistNationalist TotalLoyalistNationalist

In other words, around 10-15% of the totality of nationalist and loyalist parades are considered by the Commission to be potentially contentious, and around two thirds of such parades in 1999-2000 actually attracted either route restrictions or conditions.[40]

30. It is clear from these figures that only a small proportion of the parades held by loyalists or by nationalists are considered by the Commission to require either route restrictions or conditions.

31. In the course of our inquiry, we have sought to shed further light on the extent to which routes are controversial. The Loyal Orange Institution of Ireland (Grand Lodge) commented that there are "something like 295 possibly contentious routes;"[41] this may have been a reference to the number of contentious parades. The Commission put the figure for locations where it must consider contentious parades at "in the region of 30".[42] The RUC commented that "there are perhaps 12 sites in Northern Ireland where there are problems" but added "these are localised problems, but because of the political situation in Northern Ireland they are capable of having a Province-wide effect."[43]

32. Although the 'parades issue' is frequently seen as monolithic, sectarian parades, whether loyalist or nationalist, differ markedly in character, depending on their purpose. The Mediation Network identified three principal types,[44] namely:

  • church parades - parades either preceded or followed by a church service;
  • commemorative parades - parades which commemorate a particular event, such as 12 July or St Patrick's Day;
  • band parades - parades, overwhelmingly in the loyalist tradition, which include those organised by bands themselves, frequently for the purpose of raising funds, but also include a much wider spectrum of events.

The information is available to sustain an analysis of the extent to which each category of parade is subject to route restrictions and conditions. We recommend that the Commission includes an appropriate table in its Annual Reports.

33. Dr Jarman, of Democratic Dialogue, commented[45] that "the vast majority of parades do not cause offence, have not historically caused offence and I think there is a considerable degree of toleration and acceptance of the parades, acceptance of the disruption." He added "In the early days [residents groups] were not objecting to all parades, they were objecting to one or two specific parades. When their objections were not acknowledged in any way as being legitimate, they tended to escalate." Mr Hamilton added[46] that "residents in many areas have made the distinction between church parades and parades which do not foment the kind of disorder or disruption that some band parades, for example, might." Dr Bryan, of Democratic Dialogue, drew attention to changes in character of particular parades over time, and differences in character between, for example, town and country parades.[47] Dr Jarma, also commented that there was nonetheless a perception within the Nationalist community that "an Orange parade was an Orange parade and I think that probably still survives to a great extent."[48]

34. The causes of controversy over parades vary. In some cases, the controversy arises because the parade is, in principle, unwelcome in, or close to, an area with a different tradition. In others, the conduct of the parade on a previous occasion may be the root cause. In yet others, the difficulty may arise over some of the participants: the Mediation Network pointed out that, on some occasions, the choice of bands can be a cause of controversy.[49] The Commission recognised that demographic changes had an impact on the extent to which parades might be controversial.[50] It took the view that commercial areas were demographically neutral.[51]

35. Grand Lodge witnesses portrayed their Institution as sensitive to the concerns of others and willing to compromise.[52] The Reverend William Bingham cited an example of a parade where both the band and the music were changed to accommodate local sensitivities.[53] He was, however, unwilling to accept that the Commission was also seeking to balance the rights of Orange Order members and the rights of residents. He commented: "No, I think, absolutely not ... its emphasis has always been in favour of residents' groups. I do not think it really has shown any kind of understanding or sympathy of the Orange Institution."[54] He also saw the name as one that was "automatically loaded against one tradition, and that is the Protestant/Orange tradition, which is a parading tradition."[55]

36. Dr Jarman gave a number of examples of bad behaviour associated with parades,[56] as did the Governor of ABOD.[57] Dr Jarman commented that church parades do not generally cause too much disruption, and that there was some correlation between the size of a parade and the disruption caused. Band parades could be more problematic. In the opinion of Dr Bryan, the problem of bad behaviour at parades was largely seen as one to do with the loyalist community, to which a contributing factor might be the much smaller number of band parades within the nationalist community.[58] Mr Hamilton saw a greater reliance on the Code of Conduct as a useful way of tackling bad behaviour.[59]

37. Besides organising their own parades, bands also feature in church and commemorative parades. Both the Mediation Network[60] and the Parades Commission[61] noted recent improvements in behaviour by bands in parades, and in a number of cases bands have been excluded from parades by the Commission on account of previous bad behaviour. Grand Lodge[62] and the ABOD[63] told us that they had also taken action, in relation to their own parades, on this score.


38. We took oral evidence from Grand Lodge, from Portadown Loyal Orange Lodge No. 1 and from the ABOD. Written evidence was received from the Independent Loyal Orange Institution (ILOL) Constitutional Affairs Committee,[64] and from the Imperial Grand Black Chapter of the British Commonwealth (IGBC).[65]

39. None of these bodies supported the existence of the Parades Commission. ILOL objected to the "interference of an outside body in our parades because we are a religious body, not subject to political influence."[66] It considered that the Commission "has failed to deliver on transparency, consistency and professionalism. It has become a factory of grievances adding to, and not helping to solve, local disputes."[67] ABOD did not consider that the Commission could be changed so as to make it more acceptable to the loyal orders.[68]

40. Grand Lodge considered the Commission "an unelected quango allegedly accountable to no one for the decisions it makes" and described the legislation under which it operates as "legislation which in our opinion fundamentally undermines basic human rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of movement". It accused the Commission of failing to abide by its own procedural rules and described the Commission and the legislation as a "law breakers charter", as "Inevitably ... the Commission will issue determinations based on the possible violent reaction of others to parades."[69] Grand Lodge maintained that the power to issue determinations meant that the legislation "is perceived as being one sided", given the greater significance of parades, measured numerically, to the Protestant/Unionist community and set out, with examples, six specific areas where it considered that the operations of the Commission were deficient.[70]

41. As we have pointed out earlier, the present policy of Grand Lodge is not to engage at all with the Commission. The Grand Master told us that there was very considerable opposition to any change of policy regarding engagement with the Commission.[71] The Reverend William Bingham saw the Commission as "irredeemable".[72]

42. ABOD emphasised the cultural role of the organisation and its significance to the Protestant minority in Londonderry.[73]

43. It is the policy of ABOD to engage with the Commission[74] although it considers that it would be more appropriate for the RUC to deal with public order issues relating to parades.[75]

44. A particular sticking point with the Grand Lodge over engagement is that "if you meet the Parades Commission, their bottom line is that you have to meet with Sinn Féin residents, and there are a number of brethren up around the country who just would not meet with Sinn Fein."[76] ABOD commented that, in its experience, some residents groups are reluctant to get an agreement, which at the end of the day has led to a determination unfavourable to the Apprentice Boys.[77] ABOD considered that this left the residents groups with no incentive to engage in meaningful negotiations.

45. The Commission commented "There is a refusal on the part of the loyal orders ... to involve themselves with the Commission directly, and that obviously makes it difficult sometimes."[78] Mediation Network witnesses saw the lack of engagement as "the biggest single inhibition" to the development of the work of the Authorised Officers to date.[79] Dr Jarman, of Democratic Dialogue, saw the failure of the loyal orders to engage with the Commission as having seriously disadvantaged them in tactical terms. He commented:[80]

    "If ever you did see that there were two choices, for a positive tactic or a negative tactic to be taken, I think the Loyalists by and large have taken the negative tactic and taken the worst view, the worst approach they possibly could. If they were prepared to grasp the situation and confront the residents groups, they would find themselves in a much stronger position. I think the failure to take up the challenge and to refuse to meet and to engage has given the residents groups greater opportunity to move the issue further into their court than they might have done."

46. In his evidence to us, Mr Trimble expressed the view that it would be desirable for the Orange institutions to engage with the Commission,[81] although he added "I understand the Loyal Orders' reluctance to get involved with residents' groups of whom they are suspicious of individuals and have very good reasons for not wishing to meet with them. That should not prevent them from engaging with the local community and addressing the public in wider terms." He considered that the Loyal Orders might benefit from additional training resources and added:

    "It would be better for all concerned if Loyal Orders engaged with society in a broader way in order to promote an understanding of what they are doing rather than allowing themselves to be boxed into a corner."

47. The majority of the evidence we received clearly indicated that there would be general advantage in engagement between the Orange institutions and the Commission. A useful first step might be for Grand Lodge to spell out the specific barriers it sees to engagement, and suggest how the Commission and others might act to overcome them.

48. The Mediation Network suggested that the Commission should seek to define the parades conflict more clearly. It commented that "a simple exposition of the issues" would be helpful in stimulating a more productive debate. It sees the root of parades disputes as twofold: the relationship or social order between paraders and opponents may have broken down, or it may have been unhealthy in the first place.[82] It identifies five specific dimensions to the parades conflict - religious, political, public order, social and economic, and communal, and suggests that "the Parades Commission could usefully generate discussion and offer support to those concerned with each of these dimensions so that, at all the essential levels of society, a more focussed discussion could take root in both public and private discourse."[83] It recognises, though, that "establishing a new consensual social order between the traditions of Northern Ireland regarding parades is a long term process, stretching beyond the tenure of the present Commission." It might be that progress along these lines would assist the Orange Institutions in engaging with the Commission.


49. Sinn Féin is critical of the operations of the Commission. Its submission to the NIO Review claimed that the Commission "has lost the confidence of large sections of the community."[84] It accused the Commission of having "palpably failed to resolve the parades issue. Its decisions have become increasingly inconsistent and arbitrary ....".

50. The Bogside Residents' Group did not consider that forcing marches through areas where there is opposition to them, or re-routing them, would solve the parades problem. It wished to see the Commission consider the history of contentious marches and "seek a complete and absolute resolution of the issue over a period of time".[85] It sought agreement based on respect and equality arrived at through various processes of dialogue. It drew attention to "the strong suspicion among nationalists that the agenda of the Parades Commission is to arrive at a scenario where marches and parades take place with or without agreement through currently contentious routes. This can be seen in its approach to Garvaghy Road, where a march has been promised if a number of conditions are met by the Orange Order; the views of residents do not appear to count in this scenario."[86] If there was "clear opposition" to a parade, the Group's spokesman, Mr Mac Niallais, considered that "in many ways local residents should have a veto over these marches".[87]

51. The Group saw the creation of the Commission as an improvement on the previous arrangements, where the RUC was responsible, under public order legislation, for decisions on parades. It was keen that the Commission should continue to encourage groups to enter into a process of dialogue or mediation[88] and facilitate accommodation.[89] It was concerned that the Commission should not allow itself to be influenced by short term considerations and added "The long term resolution of this issue will come about whenever those who want to march through particular areas show respect and tolerance for people affected by the marches."[90]

52. The Lower Ormeau Concerned Community (LOCC) also supported the concept of an independent parades commission. Although it had been critical from time to time of the operations of the Commission, it recognised the need for a formal mechanism to resolve the "difficult issues around parades in the North of Ireland".[91] It considered that the Commission "has the potential to make a significant contribution to resolving the parades issue". In its view, though, the Commission has "drifted away considerably" from the model set out in the North Report, which it attributed in part to pressure from the loyal orders.

53. LOCC considered that the best way to enhance the effectiveness of the Commission would be for it "to operate in a way which is demonstrably fair and consistent".[92] Although a decision might be unpalatable to a group or individual, the process of decision taking should be clear and understandable. LOCC did not consider that the Commission's present approach accorded with this principle. It commented "we have too often seen the Parades Commission apply a limited set of the original criteria in an inconsistent way and this has been the source of the lack of acceptance which we have today, not just within the loyal orders but among residents of areas affected by parades and also among the wider nationalist community".[93] It considered that the difficulties had been compounded by Government interference in the Commission's affairs.[94]

54. LOCC criticised the weight given by the Commission to the tradition of parading, arguing that parallel weight was not given to evidence of long standing opposition to parades.[95] It argued that the Commission's attitude to dialogue had damaged the prospects for local agreement and stated that "the Commission needs to accept that in certain well-defined situations it is unreasonable for the loyal orders to insist on parading in a given area and that it is legitimate for the residents to remain unconvinced even after exploring the various issues with the loyal orders".[96] LOCC expressed the view that loyal orders may "go through the motions of dialogue in order to sway the Commission rather than trying to seriously understand and resolve the problems around parades. Residents believe that dialogue will be used against them by the Commission".[97]


55. The Commission told us that the police are the primary source of advice to it on conduct at processions and protest meetings.[98] The RUC must therefore work closely with the Commission. It described the arrangements it has in place to achieve this. Besides the appointment of an Assistant Chief Constable and an Inspector as the key people in maintaining effective liaison, a number of protocols have been agreed, designed to promote better understanding and co-ordination between the two organisations, while maintaining the integrity of both organisations.[99] The RUC did not see the relationship as "cosy".[100]

56. Responsibility for how the Commission's determinations are policed rests solely with the RUC and, with this in mind, the RUC maintains its own links with the community in relation to parades. As Assistant Chief Constable McQuillan put it[101] "We have discretion on how we implement the Parades Commission determinations. It is ... vital that when the time comes to implement the Parades Commission's determinations we have that range of contacts and can implement those, and especially as we move the pattern into much more of an emphasis on policing through a community policing style, by attempting to talk to people, to negotiate in order to get them to agree to operate within the law." He also noted that the RUC could more readily maintain contact with some of the loyal orders who were not engaging with the Commission.[102]

57. Assistant Chief Constable McQuillan accepted that there were, on occasion, differences of view between the RUC and the Commission over the decision on a particular parade.[103] Although the Commission would not normally re-route a parade where police advice was that it could pass off completely peacefully,[104] there are occasions where advice was given by the RUC that it would take less manpower to police a parade as notified to them than to police it in line with a proposed determination.[105] The RUC told us that "it is always more difficult and more expensive to stop a parade than it is to police something through."[106] Notwithstanding this, he made it clear that the RUC "do everything we can to implement ... determinations."[107] Mr Ingram supported this, stating he "would not want policing in Northern Ireland .... to be judged on the basis of what it costs but on the basis of what is right ...".[108]

58. The RUC welcomed the fact that the creation of the Commission had removed from it responsibility for decisions on parades, leaving it free to concentrate on policing them, and enforcing determinations.[109] The earlier announcement of decisions under the new system could, however, cause tactical difficulties for the police as this facilitated organised opposition and alternative plans by parades organisers when route changes and other restrictions are imposed.[110]

59. In terms of policing parades, the RUC made clear that the major factor in the decision-making process was the determination of the Commission. In cases where a controversial parade might give rise to disorder, the RUC would give the Commission advice on what it thought would happen in various scenarios. It would then be for the Commission to balance these and make a determination, which the RUC would then enforce in an appropriate fashion.[111]

60. In enforcing a controversial determination, the RUC has due regard to the rights of both those parading and those protesting. Assistant Chief Constable McQuillan recognised that this could be difficult: "there are no easy answers here. If people are determined to come into conflict with each other it is a matter of balancing the harm that would occur in each situation."[112]

61. The RUC prepares a range of analyses of the outcome of parades. [113] Records are kept of what happened with each parade and this informs judgements for the next parade in the area by the relevant group. The RUC also takes an annual across the board look at its entire tactical deployments, how its systems have worked and what lessons can be learned from the experience. It has recently completed an audit of how the relationship with the Commission is working.[114]

62. The policing of parades imposes substantial costs on the RUC, but these cannot be fully quantified at present.[115] It is developing financial systems which will enable these costs to be determined. However, it was able to tell us that the cost of policing the main Drumcree protest over the last three years has been in excess of £22.5 million.[116] There are also hidden costs as the requirement to police parades means that the force has to be structured in a particular way, requiring a large force of standing mobile units to be available to deploy at any time. As Assistant Chief Constable McQuillan said:[117] "... It has a huge impact on the way in which we are organised ...".

63. We have seen a summary of the audit of the relationship between the RUC and the Parades Commission. We welcome this review and would encourage both bodies to build on its conclusions.

64. Some concerns were expressed to us about the potential inconvenience in some circumstances for the parade organiser in having to deliver the completed form 11/1 to an officer of the rank of sergeant or above. This is a statutory requirement, not a requirement of the Parades Commission. The RUC described the arrangements it would make in the event of a sergeant not being immediately available and stressed that its intention would be to facilitate the handing in of notices of parades and protest meetings rather than to frustrate the process.[118] The Northern Ireland Office had not received any evidence that the requirement to give notice to a sergeant was a problem.[119]

65. We note the positive attitude taken by the RUC to assisting those wishing to give notice of parades or protest meetings. The requirement to give notice to an officer of the rank of sergeant or above was not a new requirement in the 1998 Act; a similar requirement had been included in the 1987 public order legislation. No evidence has been submitted to us that this requirement was also a difficulty under that legislation.

66. Mr Hamilton, of Democratic Dialogue, raised the possibility of the Commission also looking at related protests.[120] Subsequent to them giving evidence, we have sought information from both the Commission and the Royal Ulster Constabulary about how they co-ordinate their respective decisions on parades and protest meetings. The Commission has informed us that notified protest meetings are quite infrequent. The RUC advise the Commission on the policing implications of a protest, not only as notified, but also against several possible scenarios while providing their understanding of the situation most likely to unfold.[121] The RUC decides how to handle the protest meeting in the light of the outcome of the Commission's decisions and, on the day, in the light of the situation on the ground surrounding both the parade and the protest.[122]

67. Grand Lodge considered that the police, as the enforcement authority for law and order, should have responsibility for parades, as it sees the difficulty primarily as a law and order problem.[123] In effect this would be a reversion to the arrangements which preceded the establishment of the Commission. The Democratic Dialogue witnesses supported the change introduced in 1998.[124] The Bogside Residents' Group,[125] and others,[126] also saw the change as an improvement.

68. We have carefully considered the arguments for and against returning responsibility for issuing determinations to the police. On balance, we believe that there are advantages in separating the power of determination from responsibility for policing a parade, not least because the range of the statutory criteria to be considered in relation to issuing a determination was significantly broadened by the 1998 Act beyond pure public order considerations.


69. Grand Lodge was largely dismissive of the review, considering that the result was "predetermined".[127] Dr Bryan saw the outcome as "rather minimalistic."[128] ABOD believed the review was badly timed and "unnecessary, self-serving and ultimately superficial."[129] Other witnesses were also critical.[130]

70. The Northern Ireland Office saw the review as "an opportunity to fine tune, with an emphasis on trying to extend the confidence that there was in the structures in the Parades Commission in the way it operated." It also set out to see if there were ways of promoting mediation, as there was considered to be a common perception that the primary role of the Commission was to make adjudications.[131] In essence, it was seen as a stock-taking exercise, informally conducted by officials.[132] The Northern Ireland Office was broadly satisfied with the response of the Commission to the conclusions of the review.[133]

71. It is clear from the terms of reference that the Government intended the scope of the review to be limited. Its limited conclusions should not have come as a surprise to anybody. It would have been helpful, though, if the Government had made clear its intention to abandon the proposal to bring forward the date of application of the Human Rights Act 1998 to parades legislation.[134]


Role of Authorised Officers

72. A key element in the operation of the Commission is its network of Authorised Officers (AOs). The team of AOs is recruited and managed by the Mediation Network for Northern Ireland, although this responsibility is shortly to be transferred to the Commission.[135] AOs gather information about parades taking place in locations to which they have been assigned, and report to the Commission accordingly. They also carry out a mediation role in working to secure local accommodation in relation to parades disputes.[136]

73. AOs are deployed in pairs around the Province, divided across all six counties. As far as possible, Protestant and Catholic AOs work together and the aim is also to seek to ensure that each pair is balanced in gender terms.[137] The Mediation Network told us that they include people who "in their family backgrounds would identify with the parading tradition",[138] but none of them is an active member of one of the loyal orders.[139] Such membership is not prohibited, but Mr McAllister commented "no Orangeman for instance would be much inclined to take up a paid position with the Parades Commission."[140]

74. The Commission expressed considerable satisfaction with the work of the AOs. As Mr Holland put it:[141]

    "They make what is an impossible job from the Commission's point of view appear to be much easier than it possibly can be."

75. ABOD had a less positive view of what AOs could achieve, and implied that they could do little to improve matters, but had an inherent capacity to make matters worse.[142]

76. Dr Bryan, of Democratic Dialogue, had "mixed feelings" as to whether the AOs should be working for the Commission, rather than the Mediation Network.[143]

77. The Commission is taking over responsibility for the AOs from the Mediation Network in the near future. The Mediation Network stated[144] that there were three reasons for this:

  • they needed to develop outside the umbrella of the Network
  • a more immediate contact between the field officers and the secretariat might be expected to improve the quality of the Commission's operations
  • the inability of the Network to continue to give the present level of attention to the parades problem.

Northern Ireland Office witnesses commented that if this resulted in a perception that the Commission itself was becoming directly involved in mediation, rather than doing it through third parties, "Ministers might want to look at that issue".[145]

78. Whether or not individual witnesses saw the AOs as successful, they clearly have a key part to play in the work of the Commission. Given their change of status, it seems likely that they be perceived as more associated with the Commission than before. This may impact on their acceptability as mediators. We therefore recommend that the Commission should not use them to report on parades, but should employ separate staff for this purpose, as the Mediation Network has already suggested.[146] Also, arrangements for their supervision should ensure that Commissioners who have overseen mediation work should not play an active part in decisions on parades to which that work relates.[147]

Role of mediation

79. We received considerable evidence from the Mediation Network of Northern Ireland about mediation, and its potential contribution to resolving conflicts regarding parades.[148] The Commission stated that it could not directly involve itself in mediation, in view of its position as the arbiter on contentious parades.[149] It did not see mediation as necessarily an answer in relation to individual decisions in all circumstances.[150] Neither did the Grand Lodge[151] and the residents' groups who gave evidence to us.[152] In particular, Grand Lodge commented that there was no real incentive to mediate for those opposed to parades "when they know they can hide behind a Parades Commission determination."[153] The RUC considered that the mediation processes that have worked best have involved independent mediators; some loyal orders in particular saw the involvement of AOs in advising the Commission in relation to a determination as compromising their position in mediation[154].

The status of submissions to the Commission

80. There has been considerable evidence about the procedure by which the Commission operates. ABOD criticised the lack of any opportunity for it to see the information on which the Commission based its decisions.[155] ABOD considers that the current practice of the Commission breaches the principles of natural justice.[156] It also expressed concern about the status of submissions made to the Commission by the police and others in relation to whether it was 'evidence' or 'advice'.[157]

81. The RUC takes the view that it is providing confidential information to the Commission. Although disclosure of its advice would probably not cause it difficulty, it envisaged that in some cases there would be problems if it had to disclose the basis of its advice, which would often be based on intelligence.[158] In general, the RUC considered its input to be more of a judgemental than an evidential nature.[159]

82. The Chairman of the Commission maintained that its method of operation did not offend Article 6 of the ECHR as the Commission is not determining civil rights.[160] He conceded, though, that it might be considered flawed on the grounds of natural justice. However, he could not see that it would be practicable, particularly at the height of the marching season, to proceed on a basis which involved cros- examination of witnesses. The Northern Ireland Office is content with the current process, which it described as "the most effective that can be devised", but conceded that "if a court were to find differently, then, of course, we will have to consider the implications very carefully."[161]

83. We view with some concern the Chairman's view that the Commission's procedures in relation to decisions on parades may be open to challenge on the grounds of natural justice. We recommend that the Government and the Commission consider urgently whether the procedures need to be improved by grater transparency and, if so, to put the necessary steps in hand.


84. Both Grand Lodge[162] and the Ulster Bands Association[163] drew attention to occasions where, as a result of errors in the offices of the Commission, sensitive personal information about loyalists had apparently been passed on to nationalists. Besides the incident where the details of certain participants in a band parade at Maghera were allegedly passed to a Sinn Féin activist in Maghera,[164] Grand Lodge maintained that it had evidence that, in 1998-99, information from a completed Form 11/1 "was given to IRA activists in Portadown."[165]

85. The Chairman of the Commission told us that he had unreservedly apologised at the time for the former incident, which he described as "a dreadful mistake" and which arose as a result of human error,[166] but has no knowledge of the incident relating to Portadown. We have invited the witness to provide further details; this information is still awaited. In the Maghera case, the Ulster Bands Association was critical of the Commission for accepting an undertaking that the material would be destroyed, rather than requiring its return.[167]

86. Such disclosures may be very damaging in the Northern Ireland context, in whichever direction. We greatly regret that any such disclosures have taken place in the past and recommend that every effort is made by the Commission to seek to prevent recurrences. Not only may such disclosures unnecessarily expose the persons concerned to enhanced levels of personal risk, they may also contribute to a reinforcement of perceptions in the community concerned about the competence of the Commission.

The Commission's decisions

87. The Parades Commission commented that its decision-taking process is "not like a court process where you have a body of precedent built up which you have to follow blindly ... what we are involved in ... is trying to decide [a] particular application in the light of particular circumstances in accordance with statutory objectives laid down in section 8 of the Act. Plainly you could quite easily justify a decision that was made in one set of circumstances for one particular area ... for one year which might produce a different decision in another year because of a change in a whole range of factors which you have to take into account ... so that the principles are consistent but the end result may be different."[168] It also stressed the importance of the decision making clear to the applicants the reasoning behind it.[169]

88. Mr Hamilton, of Democratic Dialogue, commented that "if you are looking for purist consistency, then you probably will not find it. The reason for that is that the different factors in section 8(6) of the legislation will mean different things in different situations."[170] He described some of the factors that might contribute to an apparent difference of approach to what appeared at first sight to be similar situations. In a supplementary memorandum,[171] Mr Hamilton demonstrates, subject to a number of qualifications, that the impact which a procession may have on relationships within the community is the most frequently cited ground in determinations, followed by public disorder and damage to property. He saw the reason for the lack of success in legal challenges to Commission determinations as coming essentially from the very nature of judicial review proceedings.[172]

89. Grand Lodge asserted that the Commission insists on direct dialogue with residents' groups.[173] The Commission maintained that it does not insist on such dialogue in every area on every occasion. It considers, though, that "there is little doubt that dialogue involving a constructive exchange of views, and an inherent message that there is an element of respect for opposing views, would be an extremely positive factor on almost every occasion."[174]

90. Mr Hamilton, of Democratic Dialogue, commented[175] that "consideration of the threat of public disorder, as the Commission has considered it, has not really distinguished between the source of disorder, and in many cases it is fair to say that the threat of disorder from residents groups has ultimately led to a parade being re-routed or other conditions imposed on it" but added that a similar criticism was also levelled at the preceding legislation, the Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1987. Dr Jarman noted[176] that European jurisprudence suggested that, generally, the threat of public disorder is a priority over the right to assemble.

91. ABOD was concerned that the Commission seemed to defer to threats of violence.[177] It also raised a specific case where it was apparently unclear from where the threat would emanate.[178] Other witnesses from the loyal orders shared the general perception.[179]

92. IGBC submitted a dossier of examples[180] of what it saw as unfair decisions by the Commission, in many cases following actions designed by the local Preceptory to accommodate local concerns. These, it considers, are evidence of "a sad lack of impartiality on the part of the Parades Commission in their operations and determinations." It detects "an obvious bias and submissive attitude towards appeasing those who would use the threat of public disorder and whose avowed intentions are to actively and deliberately target all processions and stop them at whatever cost." It also chides the Commission for the way in which it collects material on which determinations are based.[181]

93. Concerns were also expressed, by the loyal orders[182] and others[183], about the consistency, or otherwise, of the decisions of the Commission. In particular, ABOD was critical of the failure of the Commission to allow a parade down the Lower Ormeau Road in 2000, after apparently indicating in a determination that such a parade would be a realistic possibility in certain circumstances.[184]

94. ABOD also commented that some of the parades notified by the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community did not in the event happen: they were simply tactical exercises designed to force re-routing of Loyalist parades.[185] We raised one specific example with the Commission, namely, the parade notified for Friday 11 August, to unveil a new mural. This would have clashed with an ABOD parade on the same route, had the ABOD parade not been re-routed by the Commission. Mr Holland confirmed that, as far as he was aware, that parade (in respect of which the application said 2,000 people would take part and in respect of which a determination was made by the Commission restricting its duration) did not take place. He added:[186]

    "To specifically answer your question, do I think things are contrived? Speaking for myself, in a word, yes."

95. At the previous evidence session with the Commission, Mr Holland had commented "There are some ... areas involving residents where there is perhaps a suspicion that their engagement is perhaps not as full of integrity as it might be."[187]

96. We recommend that, as a matter of policy, the Commission sends official observers to all parades in respect of which a determination has been made.

97. The current statutory provisions require each parade to be treated separately by the Commission. The RUC could see some potential benefit in being able to take a broader view of the cumulative effect of parades if some of the community relations conflicts could be resolved.[188] Northern Ireland Office witnesses were not sure that it would be easy to secure the necessary consensus.[189] The Bogside Residents' Group supported the concept of a linkage between parades in Londonderry and feeder parades elsewhere in Northern Ireland.

98. The Commission saw a number of practical difficulties with the concept of linkage, not least because it appeared to mean different things to different people.[190] It has, however, considered the matter further and concluded that it would be helpful if it had a power enabling it to make general policy statements in relation to individual contentious areas only.[191] We recommend that the Government examine this proposal carefully.

99. The Chairman of the Commission expressed concern that, when conditions it imposes on parades are not complied with, "not a lot seems to happen".[192] The Commission itself has no control over prosecutions; this is a matter which involves the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions Northern Ireland.

100. We are grateful to the Director for providing us with details of the criteria he uses for initiating or continuing prosecutions and for providing us with a statistical analysis of offences under the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act in respect of which he has issued directions.[193] A summary of this is set out in the table below. This reveals that only a quarter of offences notified have resulted in a direction to prosecute being issued, and that in over half of all cases, the Director has considered the evidence insufficient.

Analysis of Prosecutions under the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998
No prosecution
Prosecution Directed
Section 6(7)(a) illegal procession (notice requirement)
Section 6(7)(b) illegal procession (not as notified)
Section 7(6)(a) illegal protest meeting
Section 8(7) - breach of condition imposed on a procession
Section 14(1)(a) - obstruction of procession
Other offences under the Act

*Comprising 109 cases where the evidence was insufficient; 24 cases where it was in the public interest not to prosecute; and 19 cases which had become statute-barred.

**Of which, 14 are not yet tried, 9 acquittals and 24 convictions.

Source: Director of Public Prosecutions Northern Ireland.

101. The greatest contribution to enhancing the level of prosecution of offences under the Act would clearly be to improve the evidential base. We have already recommended that the Commission should seek to have observers present at all parades in respect of which a determination has been issued. One logical function of such observers would be to report to the Commission on the conduct of the parade, thus reducing its reliance on police reports.

The Impact of the Human Rights Act 1998

102. One of the conclusions of the Northern Ireland Office Review was that the bringing forward of the implementation of the provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998 in relation to the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 might help in clarifying the underlying rights[194]. The Commission had opposed any such selective advancement of the Human Rights Act in the middle of the marching season.[195] In the event, this proposal was abandoned by the Government following further consultations[196].

103. The Commission, however, strongly supported the implementation of the Human Rights Act and maintained that its procedures were compliant.[197] The RUC has, since June 2000, considered carefully the provisions of the Act when tendering submissions to the Commission in respect of potentially contentious parades[198].

104. The Commission expressed some initial concern that its procedures may need to be altered to secure compliance with Article 6.[199] It has since received legal advice that it is not determining civil rights and obligations within the meaning of Human Rights Act.[200]

105. Grand Lodge and others argued for a rights-based approach. The Democratic Dialogue witnesses considered that the introduction of human rights laws into Northern Ireland might provide new solutions to the problems concerning rights to parade, but added "human rights legislation will not solve what are some fundamental community relations problems."[201]

106. As Northern Ireland Office commented, the position on human rights is complex.[202] We are grateful for the two memoranda we have received on this subject, which bear out the very real complexities and uncertainties.[203] It seems likely, therefore, that the courts may have to decide on some important matters, such as the balance between the various rights, and the scope for their restriction on the grounds of a wider public interest. Although the Chairman of the Commission expressed doubts[204] over the present need for it to have the power to assist litigants, we recommend that consideration be given to enabling the Commission to contribute to the legal costs of parties taking cases that raise points of general importance in relation to the clarification of the application to parades of human rights law.

107. In connection with financial assistance in relation to legal costs, we note that Grand Lodge drew attention to an apparent disparity in the availability of legal aid for litigation relating to parades disputes.[205]


The significance of perceptions

108. Perceptions are crucial in relation to parades and parades disputes. There is a general perception outside Northern Ireland that difficulties tend to be associated only with parades associated with the Loyalist tradition. This is not the case, as the extension to the traditional parade in Kilkeel on 17 March 2000 abundantly demonstrated.[206] Indeed, the Commission has confirmed that although, generally speaking, nationalists do not parade outside nationalist areas, when they do enter largely loyalist areas (such as Kilkeel) "there is a degree of opposition."[207] An apparently extreme example of perception was given by the RUC.[208] The RUC also pointed out that some of the overwhelming majority of parades which pass off without controversy go through mixed communities.[209] ABOD supported traditional parades and maintained that fairness required that loyalists should not interfere with traditional nationalist parades.[210] The perception of Grand Lodge was that the power of veto had been given to those who threatened violence over parades.[211] Yet the Commission asserts that it "has continually made clear over the past three years that there will not be a veto on loyal order parades by residents groups or others who may be opposed to those parades. The Commission has approved parades despite the threat of violence by opponents of parades in the knowledge that the Royal Ulster Constabulary has made it clear that they will police whatever decision the Commission makes."

109. We have not sought to examine in detail the specific allegations made concerning individual parades in respect of which the Commission issued determinations. These appear to us, though, to provide a useful insight into the basis of the perception that the Commission's interpretation of its role, and more specifically the weighting it attaches to particular factors, create an inbuilt bias against loyalist marches through areas not overwhelmingly loyalist in nature.

110. Relations between the Commission and the Grand Lodge appear to be riven with misunderstandings. One instance is the status of the invitation sent by the current Chairman of the Commission to the Grand Master.[212] The Grand Master saw this as a personal approach and an attempt to put him at odds with Grand Lodge's declared policy of non engagement.[213] He therefore did not reply. The Commission has subsequently submitted further evidence to the effect that the letter extended a formal invitation in confidence, to the Grand Master "and your fellow officers at Grand Lodge."[214]

111. Grand Lodge criticised the Commission for failing to recognise "the fact that opposition to Orange parades has been orchestrated for political purposes by Sinn Féin."[215] IGBC made similar allegations specifically in the context of its parades in Newtownbutler.[216] Mr Percival, of the Bogside Residents Group, took a different view[217] and commented "I appreciate that Unionists believe that the residents groups were created particularly by Sinn Féin in order to promote Sinn Féin's agenda. I accept that many Unionists believe that, but I just have to say to them that it is not true."

112. Dr Bryan, of Democratic Dialogue, considered that there had been "a clear campaign" within the Nationalist community around the issue of parades, but considered that the extent to which it had been a concerted joined-up campaign is "a matter of debate".[218] He added "I find it ridiculous, this idea that you sometimes hear, that leaders of residents' groups can somehow create this situation from nothing. The reality is that much of the resentment over these parades has existed for a period of time." He also thought that changes of practice by the police in relation to parades may have contributed to the success of concerted campaigns. Dr Jarman saw 1995 and 1996 as the time when the growth in protests occurred, with only minor increases since.[219]

Combining mediation and determination

113. The Democratic Dialogue witnesses took differing views on the merits of combining mediation and determination functions.[220] ABOD commented that "being both poacher and gamekeeper is a difficult act to sustain and it is certain to cause problems, impacting adversely on one role or another."[221] The RUC considered that the dual role allotted to the Commission gives rise to "an unavoidable conflict of interests."[222] Northern Ireland Office witnesses recognised that there was a tension between the Commission's mediation role and its role in issuing determinations: Mr Watkins commented[223] "as long as the Parades Commission promotes mediation but that mediation is conducted at arm's length from the Commission then that inherent tension does not become insoluble".

Parliamentary scrutiny

114. Grand Lodge commented[224] that the Commission "should have been made accountable to parliamentary scrutiny, possibly through the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee". Our answer to this point is that our present inquiry demonstrates that such accountability already exists. Furthermore, this is not the full extent of the Commission's accountability to Parliament: its annual report and accounts are required by statute to be laid before both Houses and revisions to the code of conduct, the procedural rules on the guidelines as to the exercise of its powers to issue determinations are subject to parliamentary scrutiny. We intend to continue to take a close interest in the work of the Commission. We hope that Grand Lodge and ABOD are reassured over the level of parliamentary oversight of its operations.

The Performance of the Commission

115. We are acutely conscious of the cultural significance of parades to both traditions in Northern Ireland, a subject which has recently been usefully reviewed by the British Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body.[225] This factor undoubtedly acts to reduce the Commission's room for manoeuvre. Its actions and determinations are often dissected minutely and critically examined for nuances. Its members and staff are therefore consistently under pressure from all sides.

116. The views expressed to us ranged very widely. Grand Lodge considered that the Commission had failed in respect of each of its statutory duties.[226] Dr Bryan, of Democratic Dialogue, saw it as having been "a relatively successful intervention in a very difficult situation."[227] Dr Jarman suggested that one of the benefits has been in the removal of a burden from the Royal Ulster Constabulary.[228]

117. In view of the significance attached to the issue of parades to both traditions in Northern Ireland, and the impact of some parades disputes on community relations across the Province, we recommend that this Report be debated by the House.

2  Report of the Independent Review of Parades and Marches. Back

3  North Report, Executive Summary, para. 53. Back

4  Ev. p. 82. Back

5  Section 2(1). Back

6  Sections 3 to 5. The Commission is also required to keep those documents under review and may from time to time revise them, in whole or in part. Back

7  Section 2(2). Back

8  Section 8(6). Back

9  Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1987, (1987 No. 463), Article 4(2). Back

10  Section 11. Back

11  Section 9. Back

12  Ev. p. 69 and Q 247, 253 and 281. Back

13  Q 254. Back

14  Schedule 1, paragraphs 1 and 2. The Secretary of State may by order vary the number of members. Back

15  Schedule 1, paragraph 2(3). Back

16  Q 2-3. Back

17  Q 213. See also Q 210. Back

18  Ev. p. 85. Back

19  Q 286. Back

20  Appendix 12, p. 223.. Back

21  Appendix 13, p. 223-224. Back

22  See, for example, Ev. p. 149 and Appendix 17, p. 296. Back

23  Ev. p.83 -85. Back

24  Ev. p. 2. Back

25  Ev. p. 2. Back

26  Ev. p. 3. See also Ev. p. 69. Back

27  Ev. p. 3. Back

28  Ev. p. 69. Back

29  Q 229, 234. Back

30  Q 235. See also paragraph 29. Back

31  Ev. p. 3. Back

32  Ev. p. 3. Back

33  Ev. p. 99. See also Q 13. Back

34  Ev. p. 3. Back

35  The Commission defines 'engagement' as "a real attempt to address the legitimate concerns of others, and a preparedness to accommodate these concerns, where it is within their power to do so".(Ev. p. 4). It is considering how this definition might be further refined (see Ev. p. 5). See also Q 27. Back

36  Ev. p. 3. See also Q 47. Back

37  For the Commission's definition of 'mediation', see Ev. p. 4. Back

38  Ev. p. 19, Q 21. See also Ev. p. 71 for data supplied by the RUC. Back

39  Ev. p. 19. Back

40  This figure is inflated by the large number of parades notified by loyalists to pass along the Garvaghy Road in Portadown. In 1999-2000, 52 route restrictions were specifically related to 'Drumcree' parades along the Garvaghy Road. (Ev. p. 2). The corresponding figure in 1998-99 was 38 (Q 21). Back

41  Q 88. Back

42  Appendix 22, p. 302. Back

43  Q 237. See also Q 261. Back

44  Ev. p. 136. Back

45  Q 152. Back

46  Q 152. Back

47  Q 143-145. Back

48  Q 145. Back

49  Q 383. Back

50  Q 39. Back

51  Q 40. See also Appendix 22, p. 302. Back

52  Q 100. Back

53  Q 102. Back

54  Q 103. Back

55  Q 107. Back

56  Q 148. Back

57  Q 182, 184. Back

58  Q 151. Back

59  Q 150. Back

60  Q 383. Back

61  Ev. p. 4. Back

62  Q 111. Back

63  Q 182-184. Back

64  Appendix 2, p. 192. Back

65  Appendix 10, p. 216. Back

66  Appendix 2, p. 193. Back

67  Appendix 2, p. 193. Back

68  Q 211-212. Back

69  Ev. p. 21. Back

70  Ev. p. 22-24. Back

71  Q 108. Back

72  Q 110. Back

73  Q 176. Back

74  Q 178. Back

75  Q 180. Back

76  Q 109. Back

77  Q 201. Back

78  Q 24. Back

79  Q 399. Ev. p. 104. Back

80  Q 159. Back

81  Mr Grogan asked (at Q 432), "First Minister, do you think that the Commission would be more effective and be more knowledgeable if the Loyal Orders engaged with it as a matter of course?". Mr Trimble replied, "Yes, I have no doubt about that at all and it would be desirable. ... ". Back

82  Ev. p. 104-105. Back

83  Ev. p. 105. Back

84  Appendix 13, p. 223-224. Back

85  Ev. p. 150. Back

86  Ev. p. 150. See also Q 465. Back

87  Q 472. Back

88  Q 448. See also Q 453. Back

89  Q 472. Back

90  Q 468. Back

91  Appendix 6, p. 209. Back

92  Appendix 6, p. 209. Back

93  Appendix 6, p. 209. Back

94  Appendix 6, p. 210. Back

95  Appendix 6, p. 210. Back

96  Appendix 6, p. 210. Back

97  Appendix 6, p. 210. Back

98  Q 15. Back

99  Ev. p. 69. See also Q 238. Back

100  Q 256. Back

101  Q 222. Back

102  Q 229. Back

103  Q 224. See also Q 238, 254. Back

104  Q 242. Back

105  Q 243, 254. Back

106  Q 275. Back

107  Q 224. See also Q 228, 244. Back

108  Q 597. Back

109  Q 233, 275. Back

110  Q 233.  Back

111  Q 241. Back

112  Q 241. Back

113  Q 259. Back

114  Q 268. Back

115  Q 269-271. Back

116  Ev. p. 70. Back

117  Q 269. Back

118  Q 257-258. Back

119  Q 306. Back

120  Q 161. Back

121  Appendix 21, p. 301. See also Q 285. Back

122  There is a specific saving, in section 10 of the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998, in respect of the common law powers of a constable to deal with or prevent a breach of the peace. Back

123  Q 119. Back

124  Ev. p. 36. Back

125  Q 448-449. Back

126  See, for example, Appendix 6, p. 209. Back

127  Q 104-5. Back

128  Q 165. Back

129  Ev. p. 51. See also Q 196. Back

130  See, for example, Appendix 6, p. 209. Back

131  Q 287. See also Q 332. Back

132  Q 288. Back

133  Q 296-299. Back

134  See paragraph 102. Back

135  Ev. p. 102, 104. See also Q 26. Back

136  Ev. p. 2. Back

137  Q 378, 400. Back

138  Q 400. Back

139  Q 402. Back

140  Q 403. Back

141  Q 26. Back

142  Ev. p. 52. Back

143  Q 168. Back

144  Q 379. Back

145  Q 307. Back

146  Q 382. Back

147  See also Q 322. Back

148  See Ev. p.102 - 125, 136-137 and Q 357 to 417. Back

149  Q 11. Back

150  Q 12. Back

151  Q 124. Back

152  Q 449 and Appendix 6, p. 210. Back

153  Q 127. Back

154  Q 262. Back

155  Ev. p. 53. Back

156  Ev. p. 55. Back

157  Q 205. Back

158  Q 249-250. Back

159  Q 251. Back

160  Q 540; Appendix 22, p. 302. Back

161  Q 328. Back

162  Q 123. Back

163  Appendix 17, p. 293. Back

164  Q 123, 518, Appendix 17, p. 293. Back

165  Q 123. Back

166  Q 518. Back

167  Appendix 17, p. 293. Back

168  Q 29. See also Q 54. Back

169  Q 31. Back

170  Q 153. Back

171  Ev. p. 48-50. See also Q 153. Back

172  Q 166. Back

173  Q 115. Back

174  Appendix 22, p. 302. Back

175  Q 159-160. Back

176  Q 161. Back

177  Q 180-181. See also Q 185-188. Back

178  Q 194. Back

179  See, for example, Ev. p. 21, and Ev. p. 160. See also Ev. p. 138. Back

180  Appendix 10, 218-220. Back

181  Appendix 10, p. 220. Back

182  See, for example, Ev. p. 22 and Ev. p. 160. Back

183  See, for example, paragraph 53 above. Back

184  Q 210. Back

185  Q 216. Back

186  Q 531. Back

187  Q 24. Back

188  Q 248. Back

189  Q 324. Back

190  Q 570- 571. Back

191  Appendix 20, p. 299. Back

192  Q 528. Back

193  Appendix 18, p. 296. Back

194  Ev. p. 86, 100. See also Q 286 and 292 - 295. The Act already applied to transferred matters by virtue of section 24 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and was to come into force for reserved and excepted matters on 2 October 2000 (Ev. p. 86). Back

195  Q 32. Back

196  Ev. p. 101. See also Q 604 - 606. Back

197  Q 32-33. Back

198  Ev. p. 69. See also Q 245. Back

199  Q 36. Back

200  Appendix 22, p. 302. Back

201  Ev. p. 36. Back

202  Ev. p. 100. Back

203  Appendix 14, p. 225 and Appendix 15, p. 253. Back

204  Q 548. Back

205  Q 85. Back

206  Q 30. See also Q 59-64. Back

207  Appendix 22, p. 302. See also Q 118, Appendix 6, p. 209.  Back

208  Q 237. Back

209  Q 237. Back

210  Q 207. See also Q 118. Back

211  Q 121. Back

212  Ev. p. 19. Back

213  Q 82. Back

214  Appendix 22, p. 302. Back

215  Ev. p. 22 and Q 84. Back

216  Appendix 10, p. 219. Back

217  Q 471. Back

218  Q 141. See also Q 157- 159. Back

219  Q 141. Back

220  Q 169. Back

221  Ev. p. 52. See also Q 191. Back

222  Ev. p. 70. See also Q 262. Back

223  Q 322. Back

224  Ev. p.24. Back

225  Report from the Environmental and Social Committee (Committee D) at the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body, The Cultural Significance of Parades, NO. 81, February 2001. Back

226  Q 115. Back

227  Q 171. Back

228  Q 172. Back

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