Supplementary Memorandum submitted by
the Parades Commission
28 FEBRUARY EVDIENCE SESSION: SUPPLEMENTARY
During his evidence to the Committee on Wednesday
28 February, the Chairman of the Parades Commission, Mr Tony Holland,
responding to questions (570-571) from Mr Clarke about grouping
parades, indicated that so-called "linkage" between
different parades can be interpreted in different ways and that
the Commission had in any case a statutory duty to consider parades
The members of the Commission have since then
had an opportunity to debate this matter further, during a two-day
session set aside for discussing these kinds of issues. They have
come to the conclusion that it would be helpful if the Commission
had a power enabling it to make general policy statements in relation
to individual contentious areas only. It would not envisage any
such enabling power being used other than sparingly, most probably
at the request of some recognised party (as opposed to an individual)
in or near the location of the contentious parades, and possibly
limited in its duration. (This might be a protagonist to the dispute
or indeed some other body with an interest in the matter, such
as, for example, a chamber of commerce.)
The Commission intends now to give consideration
to making recommendations to the Secretary of State on this matter.
The Chairman thought it might be helpful to the Committee's deliberations
to know of this development.
Another matter that I would wish to refer to
at this juncture is Tony Holland's response to question 538 raised
by Mr Barnes. Mr Barnes asked what representations there had been
about the Commission's Statutory Code of Conduct, procedures,
rules and guidelines and from whom these representations had come.
The Apprentice Boys of Derry General Committee wrote to Mr Holland
on 29 September 2000 enclosing a legal note that the General Committee
indicated had been sent to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.
The letter could be interpreted as a representation about the
rules and procedures of the Parades Commission.
More recently, and since the Commission gave
evidence, there has been further correspondence about the same
issue with legal advisers to the Belfast Walker Club of the Apprentice
Boys of Derry and with legal advisers to a flute band from Kilkeel
called Banna Fluit Noamh Phadraig. All three pieces of correspondence
call into question the fairness of the Commission's procedures,
which are of course provided for in the statutory documents.
I will respond separately to a number of other
points that have been raised.
14 March 2001
The Chairman of the Parades Commission, giving
evidence to the Committee on Wednesday 28 February 2001, indicated
that he would follow up a number of points in writing. These are
dealt with immediately below, drawing upon the numbering used
on the draft transcript.
At 520, Mr Hunter indicated that the Ulster
Bands Association (UBA) had been seeking a meeting with the Commission
from the end of October 2000 and had had no reply for three months.
He enquired as to why it took the Commission so long to reply.
There seems to be some misunderstanding. The
Ulster Band's Association was not waiting three months for a reply
from the Commission. The Commission's Secretariat had several
telephone discussions with the Association over the intervening
period, aimed at arranging a meeting suitable to both the Association
and the Commission. Firstly, there was no sense of the Association
requiring a meeting quickly. The Association did not seek a meeting
with the Commission prior to any specific procession notification
date or before any other key date. Rather the UBA was seeking
to meet the Commission before the start of the 2001 "Marching
Season" to discuss general issues. In addition, given that
members of the Association had difficulty coming to meet the Commission
during those hours which the Commission had set aside for business,
it was necessary to arrange a special "extraordinary"
meeting. The Association specifically asked to meet the Commission
on a Wednesday, and after 8.00 pm to facilitate their travelling
arrangements. The Commission agreed to this, and met the UBA on
Wednesday 14 March 2001 at 8.30 pm. The meeting lasted two hours
and was very productive.
At 543 Dr Palmer enquired as to what research
related to parades has been commissioned by the Commission over
the last 12 months.
The Commission has recently placed a number
of questions in a Northern Ireland Omnibus Survey seeking to discover
public attitudes to restrictions on parading. The Commission has
not directly commissioned other research within the last 12 months.
Of course, the Commission conducts its own analyses and interpretation
of data and employs a team of Authorised Officers to glean information
and report on diverse local parading locations throughout Northern
Ireland. We also receive reports from the Mediation Network for
Northern Ireland on specific parading subjects and receive reports
from the other mediators and negotiators involved in parading
issues. This is, however, not of the nature of commissioned research.
The Commission makes use of the research and publications of others
which touches on parading, whether from individual academics,
organisations or other commissions, such as the Northern Ireland
Human Rights Commission.
At 559, Mr Beggs asked if any attempt had been
made to determine if the Authorised Officers were representative
of the various parading traditions in Northern Ireland. The Commission
has no information on this beyond the fact that Authorised Officers
are drawn from both main communities in Northern Ireland.
At 561 Mr Beggs asked how many applications
have been rejected by the Commission in each of the last three
years on the grounds that inadequate notice had been given. The
Commission is not aware of rejecting any application on the grounds
solely of inadequate notice over the last three years. Those notifying
parades are required to give 28 days notice where practicable.
Any parade organiser who gives less notice than this, is required
to provide an explanation for the late notification. The Commission
considers all explanations on merit. The Commission writes out
to those organisers who submit late notifications to remind them
of their statutory obligation to give the appropriate notice.
The Commission did consider two notifications
from LOL No 1 (over the summer of 2000) which were each submitted
on a Saturday evening for a parade to take place the next day.
The Commission met and issued determinations in each of these
cases. The Commission had a sense that the reasons given in each
case were not particularly robust, but decided to show flexibility
by meeting, at extremely short notice, and considering the cases.
Mr Beggs continued at 562 to enquire as to the
number of applications for protest meetings which were rejected
by the Commission over the same period. The Commission has no
power to reject notifications of protest meetings and has no power
to impose conditions in these cases. While the Commission is notified
of protest meetings, their management and control is the responsibility
of the police, possibly by employing their powers under the common
law and/or public order legislation.
In elaborating his response to Mr Burgon's question
at 565, Mr Holland pointed out that the Commission does not always
make determinations in a way which accepts police advice without
qualification or interpretation. Mr Holland stated that it would
be unfair to identify those situations but could provide examples
if the Committee really wanted to know.
The Commission still takes the view that it
would be unhelpful for specific examples to be known by the wider
public. The Commission is supported by the RUC's commitment to
police determinations made by the Commission to the best of their
ability. The Chief Constable has, under the Public Processions
Northern Ireland Act 1998, recourse to apply to the Secretary
of State for Northern Ireland, to review a determination issued
by the Commission under section 8.
In response to your letter dated 7 March 2001,
I would like to clarify the following points that you raised:
the Commission's activities do not
fall within the purview of any Ombudsman;
Section 75 of the Northern Ireland
Act 1998 does not apply to the Commission;
the date of appointment of the members
of the current Commission is 19 February 2000 and the appointments
are due to expire on 18 February 2002;
please find attached copies of the
Determinations and reviews of the Determinations in respect of
St Joseph's AOH Pipe Band and The Holy Cross Accordion Band for
the parade on Friday 17 March 2000 as requested*;
the Chairman has nothing further
to add to the items already discussed concerning Kilkeel;
also attached is a copy of the Kilkeel
judicial review judgment as requested;
the Commission has not taken any
stand over parades which are notified but do not take place. A
decision by parade organisers not to hold a parade which they
have previously notified can be made for a variety of reasons.
The Commission does not view such cancellation or withdrawal as
a breach of conditions, whether the parade is a protest parade
In response to your letter of 23 March 2001,
I can confirm that in Portadown from 3 April 2000 to 28 March
2001, 95 loyalist parades were notified. Of these 60 related to
the traditional Drumcree route and were considered contentious.
Thirty one of the remaining 35 were considered non-contentious
I do hope this information is helpful.
28 March 2001
228 Not reported. Back