Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Annex 1


    "There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king's laws: therefore it is not for the king's profit to suffer them"

    Esther Ch. 3 V.8


  Section A  Basis of the Report

  Section B  The Human Rights Framework

  Section C  The Proposals

  Section D  The Proposed Star Chamber (Parades Commission)

  Section E  Guidelines, Procedures and Codes of Conduct

  Section F  Summary

  Annex 1  Submission to the Northern Ireland Forum for Political Dialogue

  The composition and terms of reference of the Independent Review of Parades and Marches predetermined that it would be intellectual but highly prejudiced. The arguments are coherent but lack basic common sense. Amidst inaccuracies (3.27) and misunderstandings (1.32) they also have a distinct anti-Protestant and anti-Orange bias and prejudice (3.8). We reject the notion that because Orangeism is opposed to Roman Catholicism that it is consequently anti-catholic. This is a jesuitical interpretation. Protestantism is, after all, opposed to Roman Catholicism. This section of the report is a direct attack on our right to hold and express religious views. North quotes the views of the Community Relations Council (6.27) but ignores that sensible position and instead seeks to institutionalise conflict.


  The report goes to great lengths to ignore the role of militant nationalism in blocking, or attempting to block roads, against Orange parades. Section 2.5, 2.6 and 4.12 on dealing with the Portadown parades conveniently forgets or ignores that the residents of Garvaghy Road planned to and physically blocked that road, breaking existing law, threatening violence and forcing the RUC to seek to stop Orangemen from parading. Thus the report seeks to focus attention on parades as a problem, rather than those who by illegal and undemocratic means seek to deny the right of free assembly and expression to Protestants. It is our contention that the problem is not parades but those who actively block the roads.

  It is also worth noting that the current levels of parades which militant nationalists seeks to stop is still relatively small. Nevertheless in response to this Nationalist pressure the government has seen fit to establish the North Inquisition which has in turn recommended, amongst other draconian measures, the establishment of a Star Chamber with a range of repressive guidelines, codes and potential legislation worthy of any previous tyrannical Star Chamber. The report further assumes that Nationalists, after an accommodation has been reached, will stick to the agreement. This scenario is contrary to the experience of the last 25 years where every accommodation by Unionists has been merely a stepping stone for further Nationalist demands. Can the Nationalist leopard change his spots?


  North draws our attention to the international conventions and legislation amongst the international community which guarantee the rights of free and peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of speech and freedom of religion. It is unfortunate that the intention of the North Review is to undermine these freedoms and ignore the fact that in all international legislation the right of free passage is paramount.

  The section on "The Law in Other Countries" is most illuminating.

  1.  The Republic of Ireland. Our experience of the legislation and arrangements in the Republic of Ireland is based on our extensive discussions with An Garda Siochana prior to our parades in that jurisdiction in June 1990. On that occasion we had the privilege of being the only Orange body to take a demonstration to the Boyne on the Tercentenary of the Battle of the Boyne. Obviously there were many delicate discussions involving only ourselves and the Garda. We passed through various sensitive towns and paraded at Oldbridge with bands, regalia, lambeg drums carrying the Union flag and with the ability to sing the British national anthem. It is ironic that such an event can be accomplished with opposition and yet without incident in the Republic of Ireland and limitations on these freedoms are being opposed in Northern Ireland.

  2.  Belgium. The Belgian legislation supports free association and peaceful assembly and is qualified to ensure that those intending to provoke disorder or riot are prohibited. Translating this to the Northern Ireland situation, it is clear that the Nationalists and not the Orangemen are those who would fall foul of the law.

  3.  Italy. Here the "first in" with a notice of assembly would be allowed to proceed. Clearly traditional parades in Northern Ireland would have to be regarded as being the "first in".

  4.  Germany. The Clause in Article 8 of the German constitution that "no person has the right to disrupt an orderly public assembly or procession" is of particular relevance.

  5.  The United States. Here, as outlined in 8.61, the right to march even in directly hostile areas is protected and defended.

  Given the overwhelming international evidence in support of peaceful assembly and parade and against those who would create riot, disruption or threat of violence, it is beyond belief that the North team in 9.2 elevates those who disrupt the right of peaceful assembly.

  Nationalists and Roman Catholics who object to Orange principles and Orangemen are of course free to do so. We fail to understand why they should object, however, it is their right to do so. They have a right to protest, to persuade, to picket, but they do not have any right to block the road to stop an Orange parade. Thus we reject the notion of North that there are competing rights in this situation. There may be complementary rights but there are no competing rights. Each has the right of peaceful assembly.


  In making proposals, the North Review Body exhibits contradictory and inconsistent behaviour. They state that "neither the law nor changes to it can of themselves resolve the underlying anxieties or heal the divisions". The report then goes on to recommend radical amendments to the Public Order (N.I.) Order 1987 (which was itself a product of the rejected Anglo Irish Agreement) and the establishment of a statutory parades commission and a legislative framework (including offences) within which it will operate. So much for being "concerned throughout our work to avoid creating an Orwellian structure that bears down oppressively on the rights of groups and individuals".

  In paragraph 11.19 a series of fundamental principles are listed as the basis for the development of processes and procedures to address the issue of conflict over parades. Subsequently in the proposal, North ignores or fails to fulfil many of these.

    (a)  "The right to peaceful free assembly should (subject to certain qualifications) be protected".

  The review proposals would impose many and major qualifications which would, far from protecting free assembly, directly hinder free assembly and weigh disproportionately on our section of the community since the majority of parades come from within that community. Thus the right of Protestants to free assembly is seriously infringed.

    (b)  "The exercise of that right brings with it certain responsibilities; in particular those seeking to exercise that right should take account of the likely effect of doing so on the relationships with other parts of the community and be prepared to temper their approach accordingly".

  In moral and human rights terms this is patently false. Should one temper their views on stealing to protect the robber? Either we have the right to free assembly or we do not, North should be honest enough to answer this point.

    (c )  "All those involved should work towards resolution of difficulties through local accommodation".

  Local accommodation and resolution in any situation is only possible if both sides are committed to the preservation of existing structures. In paragraph 12.17 reference is made to a comparative body in the labour relations field. This comparison is false. The Labour Relations Agency is involved in any dispute only with the agreement of both sides. Its role is to mediate on the basis of existing legislation. Its findings are not binding unless previously agreed. However, the fundamental difference is that in the labour relations field both union and company are equally committed to the mutual and continuing success of the economic enterprise. In Northern Ireland, Nationalists are not committed either to the continuance of the existence of the country or the right of Protestants to remain in that country or indeed the right of Protestants to freely express their religion, heritage or culture.

    (d)  "In the exercise of the rights and responsibilities those involved must neither commit or condone criminal acts or offensive behaviour".

  The very existence of the North Review is as a result of those who sought by committing and condoning criminal acts to stop Protestants exercising their civil rights, by blocking roads and thus breaking existing law. Thus this report and the proposals from it are a reward and encouragement to lawbreakers.

    (e)  "The legislation and its application must comply with the United Kingdom's obligations under international law and provide no encouragement for those who seek to promote disorder".

  As above, the message from the North report is "seek to promote disorder" and you will be rewarded. Those Nationalists who blocked the passage of legal Orange parades are now to have their rejections of law enshrined in law.

    (f)  "The structure for and process of adjudication of disputes over individual parades should be clear and applied consistently with as much openness as possible".

  The recommendations of North certainly fail to promote clarity and openness, rather they are shrouded in confusion. The inevitable consequence of the decisions of the Commission will be a series of judicial reviews challenging its decisions. Thus the clarity and openness will not be achieved by the Commission.

  An advisory commission would be no more helpful since it would be seen as official mischief making.

  The details of recommendation 23 (13.34) also lack clarity.

    —  What would the Commission/Review Body's adjudication be on existing routes? We reject the distinction made between town centres and main roads and we further assert the existence of, and demand recognition of, traditional parades.

    —  How would they assess the impact on the local community? What objective criteria would be used?

    —  What purposes would be more acceptable than others? What criteria would be used to decide? We once again assert the special position of traditional parades.

    —  What features would be acceptable or unacceptable and why?

    —  Would there be a recommended approach? Would Protestants be forced to talk/negotiate with Sinn Fein/I.R.A. representatives?

  Even if guidelines were possible, the "residents groups", so called, could simply shift the goal posts to get around them. Such groups are not motivated by principle but by a single desire to stop Protestants/Orangemen from marching. The Loyal Orders, on the other hand, operate within a clearly defined set of law abiding and constitutional principles.

  The proposed code of conduct is similarly woolly and unclear. (We will return to this later)

  The relationships between the Commission, Secretary of State and the RUC are also confused and will lead to antagonism and confusion.


  Paragraph 12.23 declares that the new body should assist the search for accommodation. Unfortunately they propose to institutionalise conflict. This body will attract malcontents and troublemaking elements making it what has been termed a "factory of grievances". Moreover paragraph 12.102 allows the commission to review its decision on a route, due to demographic change. This is clearly a charter for ethnic cleansing.

  It should be noted that any appointments to the parades commission will in part, as the Public Order (N.I.) Order 1987, be influenced by Dublin. Thus the assumption that the RUC will be under less pressure if decisions on parades are taken by this Commission is fundamentally flawed. The RUC will be seen as enforcing the decisions of a Dublin influenced body. Hardly the recipe for acceptance by the Unionist community.

  Moreover we believe that, far from settling any parading issue, the decisions of the Commission would inevitably and continuously be subject to judicial review. It is noticeable that the Review body have themselves no confidence in the acceptability of the decisions of their own Commission. This is evidenced by the fact that, to back up its decisions, it has to be strengthened with the creation of new criminal offences. These draconian measures are of course, proposed to be used primarily against the Protestant community and the Loyal Orders which are pledged to uphold the law. Why can such measures not already be used against existing lawbreakers who seek to stop legitimate and legal parades?

  In summary, the Commission is an unaccountable quango which seeks to justify itself by taking roles from existing bodies. For example, it claims to seek to promote understanding-this is already within the remit of the Community Relations Council. It claims to exist to promote mediation-yet this is also the role of the Mediation Network. The Commission is blatant in seeking to take the role of the police in its decisions concerning parades.

  The suggestion that sensitive parades should receive publicity from the Commission or using other methods is of course naive and counter productive. Surely it would be more helpful to minimise publicity for such parades. To facilitate such publicity and other spurious reasons, the proposal is made to extend the period of notice to 21 days. This is neither helpful nor necessary. Most traditional parades are known about well in advance. Church parades occur on the same Sunday year after year. Indeed Twelfth demonstrations also follow a clearly defined rota, in most cases. There is a clear case for treating church parades and major demonstration days as being exempt of notice. The Salvation Army already benefit from such an exemption.

  Paragraph 12.76 suggests the extension of a code of conduct and a notice regime for open-air meeting. This has clear and significant implications for religious liberty. It is a short step from notice for religious meetings to fully fledged state licensing of religion. This has been rejected in all generations and will be in this generation also.

  The proposed relationships between the Commission, The Secretary of State and the RUC are confused and will lead to confusion. In extreme circumstances the RUC will be able to make its own decisions. This is an encouragement for extremists to block parades. The main report in paragraph 12.125 sets out a number of "sanctions" which are meant to act as an initial deterrent to anyone who planned to defy the Commission. These "sanctions" serve to illustrate the arrogance of the North Review team. Few Orangemen would lose any sleep over the threat that "they would be damned at the bar of international opinion" or that they would "receive no plaudits from the great majority of reasonable people in Northern Ireland". Indeed the Review team recognise this, and therefore, go on to suggest the introduction of a new offence which will be used predominately against Protestants. Then in a further recommendation (30) the Report suggests that the Commission, like a stern Headmaster, would take into account any previous perceived bad behaviour by parade organisers when considering a fresh proposal for a parade.

  Orangemen in their ritual prayers, record their thanks to God for delivering our nation from "tyranny and arbitrary power". The North proposals return us to "tyranny and arbitrary power".


The Guidelines

  The guidelines, like the entire Report are very vague and are a virtual "blank cheque".


Paragraph 13.15

  The Report follows a Nationalist line here and states that all town centres should be open to all peaceful parades-even parades by those who support violence. (We suggest that all traditional parades, and those who give a declaration that they will not use violence to overthrow a democratically constituted state should have access to towns.)

Paragraph 13.16

  The Report seeks to take villages as a separate case, as they claim more residents live there. This is a flawed argument. People live along the main streets of most towns. Surely a more logical argument would be that of "commercial areas" ie an area of 50 per cent plus of commercial buildings no matter what size the town or village may be. In any case we assert that all traditional parades should be allowed in towns and villages. (It is interesting that the Report makes no attempt to define "town" or "village"—could this be an attempt perhaps to turn all circumstances against Protestants?)

Paragraph 13.20

  Here the Report parrots the Nationalist line in contradiction to all British and international legal precedent. We do not see the distinction between town centres and main routes. Again how acceptable alternative routes are to be determined is not stated. Surely if the locals could tolerate "Loyalist" parades when they first moved into the area, then they should tolerate them now.


Paragraph 13.21

  Here Nationalist waffle abounds. No loyalist parade would hinder access to hospitals. Larger parades are held on public holidays or Saturdays so schools and many businesses are already shut. The major exception is the Apprentice Boys parade on 12 August in Londonderry, which brings thousands of visitors into that city, as indeed do all major demonstrations. The visitors of course bring revenue to the local traders and shopkeepers.

  All other parades are held either in the evening, Saturday afternoon or, in the case of church parades, on Sunday when commercial activity is at a minimum. The Report's argument is therefore weak.

Paragraph 13.22

  The idea that the Parades Commission could rule on the number of parades in an area is surely contrary to the statements on human rights they have previously quoted or will Protestants not have any rights?

Paragraph 13.23

  In referring to the size of the parade and how long it takes to pass, the Report has perhaps made its first valid point. The fact is that in most cases, especially church parades, the entire parade rarely takes more than 15 minutes to pass and this annually. Objections on the grounds of disruption in such cases are usually a manifestation of intolerance by the locals and nothing else. The larger demonstrations, aside from Belfast, Ballymena and Londonderry which are large towns/cities, are not held on an annual basis, so again the disruption is say 2 ½ hours every 5-10 years. Hardly cause for complaint.

  The stipulation that the parade should take up half of the road to allow free passage to traffic is unacceptable. If free passage means vehicular traffic can move at top speed, the safety implications for those on parade are horrendous.


Paragraph 13.26

  Is this an attempt to stop large demonstrations in smaller towns and villages? If not, then it is stating the blatantly obvious.

Paragraph 13.28

  The Report states that the approach by the parade organisers to reaching accommodation should be a factor in allowing a parade through. Why does the same not apply to those who threaten disorder in the first place?


  A Code of Conduct is suggested for both marchers and protestors. The idea (paragraph 13.42) that the Parades Commission can draw up Guidelines, amend them and enforce them is the antithesis of democratic accountability. Guidelines must be subject to democratic scrutiny, as must the judgments and activities of the Commission.

  The code is a particularly sinister aspect which equates the properly constituted Loyal Orders with the various ad hoc and dubious "concerned residents" groups. In the main Report at paragraph 13.42 the Review team give sample codes for marchers and protestors. The code for marchers is extremely detailed and refers specifically to flags—an aspect which is not included in the protestors' code. How can a protestors code ever be enforced? The finger will always be pointed at those in regalia and on parade, while the protestors can wash their hands of any unruly elements in their ranks by simply disowning them if necessary.


  Section B refers to overtly paramilitary style clothing/regalia. No definition is given of these terms. We believe that the historical uniforms of Carson's UVF should be permitted.

  Section F makes the absurd requirement that where the "majority population of the vicinity are of a different tradition" no party tunes should be played. How is vicinity to be defined? Are the organisers of a march expected to calculate the likely distance and direction to be travelled by the sound of their music? The references to the avoidance of "conduct, words or music likely to cause offence or stir up sectarian antagonism and behaviour which could reasonably be perceived as threatening, abusive or insulting" are equally subjective. What test could reasonably be applied to determine whether these things have occurred?

  Section G refers to flags. Just what does the Report have in mind when it seeks to prohibit scenes which could be conceived to be threatening, insulting etc. Could this include Ridley and Latimer at the stake or the massacre of Protestants at Portadown or the 36th Ulster Division Battle Standards? (This should be more clearly defined as restricting illegal paramilitary banners or flags). Since flags are to be lowered passing War Memorials how is this going to be enforced against Nationalists' parades?

  Section H concerns stewards. Who is to provide the training? Is the training to be RUC approved?

  Section J concerns dispersal. To put the responsibility of this on organisers is absurd and could never work in practice. Indeed it is not relevant at events such as bonfires, Lundy burnings etc.

  We also note the dangerous intention that the code could be made statutory. This a further draconian and unnecessary measure.


Places of Worship

  These recommendations are impracticable, unfair and indeed silly. The idea that people should be forced to show more respect for a church which they believe to be wrong, than that accorded to their own, is totally unfair. Furthermore, church buildings, being wood, brick and mortar cannot see or hear and therefore cannot be offended. It is those who attend who can be offended. If they have gone home, then, as long as their building remains untouched, they cannot be offended, no matter what music is played.

  We believe that the present guideline, which states that bands should cease playing when a service is in progress, is agreeable to the principles of civil and religious liberty and are entirely adequate. It would require little additional effort for the RUC to ascertain if a parade clashed with a service and inform the parade organisers.

  Section C. What exactly is conduct, words or music likely to cause offence? Surely this depends on the lack of tolerance of the local community? For example, Orangemen walking silently down the Garvaghy Road in Portadown apparently caused great offence. When people are that intolerant is there any hope of accommodation?


  We will support all the measures designed to reduce the incidence of alcohol abuse.


  The Review of Parades and Marches by North if implemented will have a differential impact on the Protestant community. Since the majority of parades come from within the Protestant community, any legislation introduced to implement North's recommendations would not be based on any fair treatment criteria. The North recommendations in general are sinister, highly dangerous, and a recipe for disaster. They clearly have human rights implications. Contrary to the statement by North that they have been "concerned throughout our work to avoid creating an Orwellian structure that bears down oppressively on the rights of groups and individuals" that is exactly what they are recommending. The proposed structures, far from helping to achieve greater understanding and tolerance, will create further polarisation. The proposals are a thinly veiled attempt to appease the Sinn Fein led "concerned residents" associations and to place Protestant traditions and culture in a nationalist-inspired straitjacket. Sadly, they are but a further manifestation of the current climate of "political correctness" which, in Northern Ireland terms, means a policy of reverse discrimination in favour of Roman Catholicism and nationalism.

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