Memorandum submitted by Mr Richard Monteith,
Thank you for your letter of 3 August. I enclose
herewith some submissions concerning the Parades Commission inquiry.
I understand that you will receive other submissions from Portadown
District LOL No 1 and others within the Orange Institution.
I do not propose to voice any opinions as to
whether the Parades Commission should have been created or whether
having been created it should now be terminated. It appears that
the terms of reference for the Committee are such that neither
of the above will be considered and you are proceeding from the
presumption that the Parades Commission will continue.
I will take as my starting point the Public
Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 and the review of same
which had findings announced on 16 February 2000.
I made personal and written representations
to Susan Scholefield concerning the review of the Parades Commission.
I met her on 25 November 1999 and wrote briefly on 29 November
1999. In summary, the review of the Parades Commission should
have considered the following:
1. That the composition of the Parades Commission
(a) the general population in Northern Ireland;
(b) those with an interest in the parading
It was entirely inappropriate to have the Parades
Commission made up from those who would denote themselves as Nationalists
and those who have no sympathy or affiliation with the parading
tradition. It was quite inappropriate that the Commission have
no members upon it who were directly connected with the one issue
ie that of parades, with which it exclusively dealt.
2. Not enough emphasis was placed upon traditional
parades and particularly traditional church parades. There had
to be a particular recognition for traditional church parades.
3. The question of mediation as opposed
to constant determinations should have been addressed by the Parades
Commission and they should have actually supervised mediation
efforts. Prior to any well known contentious parades, there should
have been an eight week period of mediation directly supervised
by the Parades Commission. All parties should have been requested
to have had an input into that process, failing which adverse
inferences could have been drawn. The direct involvement of the
Commission would have allowed it to have seen whether or not there
were firstly any legitimate concerns and secondly whether or not
those actual legitimate concerns had been properly addressed by
those wishing to parade. A set process with a set focused timetable
would have prevented prevarication by any parties.
The Public Processions Northern Ireland Act
1998 in section 2 set out the duties of the Parades Commission.
I would state that none of the conditions in section 2(1) have
been fulfilled. In particular section 2(1)(b) has never been carried
When the Secretary of State announced the findings
of the Review on 16 February 2000, he suggested the Human Rights
Act may have been brought in prior to 2 October 2000 but this
aspect has never been introduced. It formed a major part of his
comments on the review but in reality nothing happened.
The review commented that the Commission could
do more to heighten awareness of mediation including its own network
of local Authorised Officers. It could also provide a guide on
all forms of third party intervention in the parades issues, including
a list of those willing to help. With regard to my particular
interest, namely Portadown, nothing has been done in that regard.
Nothing has been done to take on board any of the recommendations
or suggestions I made as part of the review.
More significantly, the Parades Commission actually
ignored efforts that the Portadown District had made between July
1999 and July 2000. The determinations issued for the parades
on 2 July and 9 July 2000 by the Parades Commission simply reinforced
the veto which the Parades Commission have given to the Garvaghy
Road Residents Coalition. The Commission denies that there is
such a veto but reality shows to the contrary.
Firstly the Commission did nothing to promote
any mediation between the two sides in Portadown.
Secondly the Commission thereby failed in its
statutory duty towards the parties in Portadown.
Thirdly the Commission gave no due regard to
the efforts made by Portadown District in a variety of processes
conducted by Jonathan Powell, the Prime Minister, Frank Blair,
George Howarth MP, Adam Ingram MP and Brian Currin.
Fourthly the Commission paid no proper regard
to the contact between it and its members and myself and David
Campbell (Chief of Staff to the First Minister David Trimble).
Fifthly the Commission really requires direct
negotiations between Portadown District and Brendan McCionnaith
and his unelected self appointed Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition.
The Commission says that that is the way forward and it should
be face to face, not direct or indirect negotiations or dialogue.
The Commission of course does not live in Portadown and has in
reality given self-appointed ex-terrorists (presumably ex-terrorists)
the right to determine who walks along a portion of a main road
into the principal town in County Armagh. Those walking along
the road are coming from a Church Service. They are coming in
total silence. They are coming without any music or banners or
shows of triumphalism.
The above is just a tiny glimpse into the practical
position and the real lack of effectiveness of the Parades Commission.
The Commission can argue that most parades in Northern Ireland
do not require any consideration by it at all. However it must
be judged by how it deals with the difficult parades and Portadown
is seen as the most difficult parade. The Commission made a determination
in 1998 to "break the cycle". That meant it stopped
the parade in 1998. Having broken the cycle, the Commission has
done nothing to repair the break. It continues to leave not only
a broken cycle but a broken town and a broken country. The Commission
is quick to say that it is up to the two parties to resolve the
matter. Those who take the decisions have to bear the responsibilities
for the outcome of their own decisions.
In view of the above I would state that the
operation of the Commission since its inception has therefore
been flawed and the reason for that is because of the basis upon
which it makes its decisions. I have seen the submissions to you
of the Loyal Orange Institution of Ireland and would adopt those
as part of my own submissions. Parliament must regain control
of a body which it has set up but over which it has absolutely
no control. The only form of control is by way of Judicial Review
to the High Court in Northern Ireland and that can only be done
if any of the decisions of the Body are manifestly unreasonable
and ill-founded. The requisite standard is a very high one and
their decisions are currently virtually unassailable.
The Human Rights Act may well have some impact
but that again remains to be seen.
Self-appointed ex-terrorists like McCionnaith
can protest against parades and in the background have a threat
of Republican violence hanging over any decisions. It is accepted
that those on parade have never been guilty of violent conduct
or behaviour. The violence comes from protestors and the perception
is that the threat of greater violence particularly from Republicans
with the threats of bomb attacks in England prevail.
If the Parades Commission remains and is to
be effective it must itself control the mediation process and
be active in it. Use of local authorised Officers is entirely
ineffective and I quote one personal example to make this point.
I met with the two local authorised Officers to deal with the
Somme Anniversary Parade to take place in Lurgan on the 1st July
2000. The authorised Officers were told that such Parades had
gone on for over thirty years. In a determination subsequently
restricting the Somme Commemoration Parade, the Parades Commission
referred to the fact that the Parade was a very recent origin
and had only been going on for a few years. No one in the Commission
had received any evidence other than that given by the authorised
Officers. Therefore the information that was passed was totally
Those wishing to challenge any determination
do not have access to any information passed to the Commission
by the authorised Officers, the Police or any other parties. It
is argued that those wishing the challenge or make representations
do not have a fair hearing and that all parties should make their
representations in the presence of each other and that all documents,
materials and representations be open to all properly constituted
parrties. It is clear that the Commission receives from the self
appointed their own selective views, words and opinions which
are really without proper scrutiny or challenge. Having received
these the Commission then makes by an unknown process an unaccountable
determination which has the potential to catapult the entire Country
into complete disorder.
In conclusion Parliament should regain control
over the Parades Commission. It is appreciated that the issues
of parades is a difficult one in Northern Ireland, but to pass
complete control over parades to a non-elected, non-accountable
body is tantamount to failing to govern. Each July there is the
risk of complete community breakdown merely because the Parades
Commission declines to allow some Orangemen to walk in silence
back from Church. Church parades should be permitted along traditional
routes. The Parades Commission can only become more effective
if the suggestions I have already made together with the proper
recognition for Church parades. Parades concerning band contests
or others that can be seen as carrying triumphal emblems and displays
require more careful scrutiny.
If the Commission remains, for it to be effective
it must be establishing ways in which parades can take place,
as opposed to merely banning them because ex-republican terrorists
3 For the oral evidence given by Mr Monteith, in his
capacity as Legal Adviser to Portadown District Loyal Orange Lodge
No 1, see Ev pp 159 to 166. Back