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



Evidence presented by Mr Alistair Simpson, Governor, Mr William Hay, Spokesman and Mr David Hoey, Advisor

  1. Q 178—Mr Simpson states that the Parades Commission ". . . has turned out to be a public order commission. . . " and that ". . . the last determination that we got for the parade in the Lower Ormeau was under the Public Order Act that they were dealing with (sic). . . ".


  Section 8(1) of the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 empowers the Commission to impose conditions on public processions. By virtue of sub-sections (5) and (6), the Commission is obliged to have regard to:

    (a) The Commission's own Guidelines;

    (b) Any public disorder or damage to property which may result from the procession;

    (c) Any disruption to the life of the community which the procession may cause;

    (d) Any failure to comply with the Code of Conduct; and

    (e) The desirability of allowing a procession customarily held along a particular route to be held along that route.

  The Court of Appeal has confirmed that the Commission is also entitled to take into account other relevant factors.

  It is self-evident from the criteria listed above that the Commission must take due account of public order implications, although these will always be considered together with other factors. The Apprentice Boys may have been misled by the re-structuring of the determination to take account of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and its references to public order.

  The parade in question is, I assume, the parade by the Belfast Walker Club ABOD in Belfast on Saturday 11 November 2000. I attach a copy of the Commission's determination in respect of that parade at Appendix A3 for information, together with a copy of the review of that determination, at Appendix A4.

  2. Q 179—Mr Hoey comments that he was ". . . rather surprised. . . when Mr Holland said that he would have a problem with Article 6 of the Human Rights Convention, which actually is the right to a fair hearing". He went on to say ". . . we would say that our members would not necessarily receive a fair hearing within a structured programme. . . it (the Commission) must act responsibly within the law itself."


  There is some considerable confusion in the position taken by Mr Hoey. First, there is the question of whether Article 6 of ECHR applies. Is the Commission determining civil rights? Our legal advice is that the Commission is not.

  Second, there is the question of a "fair hearing" which in the context of the Commission's deliberations has little to do with Article 8. It is rather a basic issue of fairness or natural justice. The question here is whether the process is flawed in terms of natural justice. Of course the Commission is not a court of law. But it would be impossible for the Commission, in terms of personnel or in any other way to deal with full adversarial hearings of the type with which a court might deal.

  Mr Watkins, representing the Northern Ireland Office, made this point to the Committee, when in response to Mr Beggs (Q 328) he indicated that the Parades Commission is not equipped for full adversarial hearings, particularly in the months of July and August. Even if it were, the police advice is "expert advice". It is perhaps best countered or challenged by other expert advice.

  Any person, having gone through the Commission's own review procedures, may of course test any application in a court of law, and several have done so.

  I have attached the Commission's decisions on the three notified parades by the Belfast Walker Club, on 24 April, 12 August and 11 November 2000, and the review of the decision in respect of 11 November, to inform the Committee as to the Commission's reasoning on those occasions. (Appendices A1, A2, A3 and A4 refer).

  3.  Q 180—Mr Hay, speaking of the Commission's response to alleged threats of violence, states that "Because of the threat of violence from the Balkside (Bogside) residents group, they (the Commission) have decided to ban the Ormeau Road parade".


  In fact, the Commission agreed, with some reluctance, to hear from the Bogside Residents Group, who had requested a meeting about the Belfast Walker Club parade on 11 November 2000. The final decision taken by the Commission to re-route the notified parade was not taken on the basis of any alleged or inferred threat of violence from the Bogside Residents Group. The assumption by the Apprentice Boys of Derry, that it was, is not based on any factual evidence. The Commission cannot, as described by Mr Hay "ban" a parade—the parade was, as already stated, partially re-routed.

  4.  Q 181—Mr Hay, commenting on the acknowledged fact that the Apprentice Boys have continually maintained an attitude of remaining within the law, states that ". . . unfortunately, the Parades Commission has used that, because the residents group who threatens violence and in fact shows violence, they come down on the side of that group".


  The Parades Commission 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 have made it clear that they will police whatever decision the Commission makes.

  5.  Q 189—Mr Hoey maintains that the Commission, in upholding the freedom to a peaceful family life as ensured by Article 8 of the Human Rights Convention, denied freedom of assembly to those wishing to parade.


  It is important to differentiate between the freedom to assemble and the right to parade, although there remains a need for clarification on this point in legal terms. In the determination relating to the Belfast Walker Club parade on 11 November 2000, no attempt was made to interfere with the right of the Belfast Walker Club and other parading bodies to assemble at the notified assembly point at Belfast City Hall. Rather the Commission looked at the notified route of the Belfast Walker Club to reach the city centre and, having regard to the criteria mentioned in 1 above, decided to issue a determination.

  6.  Q 191—in responding to a question from Mr Beggs as to whether the Parades Commission can espouse both a mediation role and decisions on legally binding determinations, Mr Hoey indicated that he saw severe problems in combining the two roles. Mr Hoey went on to fault the Commission for setting up a process on the Ormeau Road, which in his opinion created difficulties with the dialogue which had been ongoing between the Belfast Walker Club and the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community (chaired by Avila Kilmurry). Mr Hoey later went on, (Q 201) to speak of the Parades Commission "parachuting in" an alternative process.


  The Commission was aware of what appeared to be terminal problems in the Kilmurry process, which can be best shown by the discussions which took place at the last meeting between the Walker Club and the LOCC on 14 March 2000. (Pages of the transcripts of those discussions are included with these papers at Appendix A5). The essence of the transcript provided is that the series of meetings between the two parties, totalling 13 meetings and over 1,100 pages of transcript, had made virtually no progress. It was in light of this evidence that the Commission decided to ask two people, not previously embroiled in the discussions, to ascertain whether some form of agreement might be reached on parades in the area in the short term. This might be regarded as negotiations rather than discussions. Unfortunately it appears that the latest efforts to breach the impasse on the Ormeau Road may also have failed to achieve an agreement.

  7.  Q 192—Mr Hoey, commenting on the reasons for the Apprentice Boys not having challenged determinations in the courts, stated that ". . . with the courts largely saying. `You may not have got to your determination the right way. Think about having done it this way and go away and decide whether it was the right decision after all,' and so the Commission goes away and says, `Yes. It was the right decision after all'".


  There is, with respect, an element of "fireside law" apparent in Mr Hoey's comments. While he certainly appears to have an idea what judicial review can, on occasion, involve, he is totally incorrect in his summary of events. In fact, in all cases where the Commission has been challenged in the courts, the judicial reviews have gone in favour of the Commission. In the case of Kilkeel, as quoted by Mr Hoey, the court's only comment was that the Commission might reasonably have carried out more extensive consultations prior to coming to its determination.

  8.  Q 204—Mr Simpson comments that ". . . on all parades of the Apprentice Boys, including the main parade in Londonderry in August, the Parades Commission have this habit of leaving everything until the last minute and it heightens tension. . . I firmly and squarely put the blame on the Parades Commission for being so long in bringing the determination out. There should be no reason for that".


  The Commission is unequivocal in rejecting Mr Simpson's perspective in this instance. The Parades Commission, as recommended in legislation, endeavours to issue determination five working days prior to a notified parade, and does so in the majority of cases. However, there are occasions, and particularly in Londonderry, when the Commission is aware that negotiations are ongoing, frequently to the very last minute. On such occasions it is not uncommon for the Commission to receive advice from those most closely involved that a determination might destroy the chance of the two parties to the disputed parade reaching an amicable agreement. It is always the Commission's view that agreement is preferable to what might be perceived as an arbitrary determination, where such agreement is possible. In such cases the Commission has indeed deferred from making a determination, but has always made clear to the parties involved what the reasons are for such a deferral. It is the policy of the Commission that such deferral will normally only take place with the agreement and knowledge of participants to any ongoing discussions.


Evidence presented by Mr George Patton, Mr Robert Saulters, Mr Denis Watson and Rev William Bingham

  1. Q 82—Mr Saulters stated that the letter from the Chairman of the Parades Commission was a personal one, and appeared to intimate that the letter which was forwarded to him by Mr Holland was an attempt to put him (Mr Saulters) at odds with the Orange Institution members.


  A copy of the letter is attached for the information of members of the Committee (at Appendix A6). There was no intent on the part of the Parades Commission to do anything other than build a relationship with Grand Lodge. There was no personal letter.

  2.  Q 88—Mr Patton asserts that ". . . there are now, what, something like 295 possibly contentious routes".


  The figure quoted earlier in evidence referred to 295 contentious parades—there are certainly nothing like 295 contentious locations. The figure relating to locations where the Commission must consider contentious parades would be in the region of 30.

  3.  Q 115—Mr Saulters states that "And that is one thing that the Parades Commission demands, that we talk to the residents groups. There is no point".


  The Commission does not insist on direct dialogue between Loyal Orders and residents groups in every area on every occasion. There is however 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 all occasions.

  4. Q 115—Mr Patton was asked by Mr Grogan about the lack of input from the Orange Order to the Commission, and how that may have affected the Commission's ability in "promoting the understanding by the general public of the issues concerning public processions, promoting and facilitating mediation, and keeping itself informed as to the conduct of public processions and protest meetings. Responding, Mr Patton commented: "I would have to say, in my view, they have failed in all three".


  The Commission has been actively involved, in a variety of ways, in fulfilling the functions laid down by Parliament and outlined by Mr Grogan. The degree of success attained will obviously be open to debate, but on the question of mediation it is true, as suggested by Mr Grogan, that the active participation of all parties would facilitate a greater degree of mediation. It is indisputably more difficult to mediate when one party will not negotiate with either the mediator or the party with whom they are in dispute. However, there have been many instances where mediation has been employed and has had varying elements of success. Although these "success stories" do not hit the headlines, in part due to the detrimental effect that publicity might have in comparison to quiet conciliation, they do take place.

  5.  Q 116—Mr Clarke asked whether, given demographic changes, it was reasonable to expect that "traditional" parade routes should be "set in stone". Responding, Mr Patton inferred that the main contested routes were on arterial routes which did not involve parades processing through residential areas.


  The Commission has attempted to maintain a "neutrality" about town centres, where the buildings are for the most part commercial. However, the point made by Mr Clarke concerning demographic changes over a period of years was well made. Difficulties have arisen on "traditional" routes due to demographic changes and it is the Commission's viewpoint that such difficulties should be addressed by parade organisers if they are to be overcome. While many parades do take place along arterial routes, parades, by their very nature, will create an element of disruption to those living in the vicinity.

  6.  Q 118—Mr Patton, responding to a question from Mr Clarke concerning whether the Loyal Orders would be content if nationalist parades were forced through loyalist areas, stated that ". . . there is very, very little evidence of opposition by loyalist and unionist people, and I dare say none by the Orange Order, to nationalist parades".


  It would be fair to point out that nationalist parades, generally speaking, do not parade outside nationalist areas. On the few occasions that they do enter largely loyalist areas, such as Kilkeel, there is a degree of opposition.

  7.  Q 122—Mr Patton comments that "I think the power of veto that has been given to those who threaten violence by the Parades Commission, is the single biggest factor in the rise of the difficulties that we have had".


  I refer the reader to my comments under item 4 of the responses to the Apprentice Boys of Derry. The Parades Commission 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 have made it clear that they will police whatever decision the Commission makes.

  Q 123—Mr Watson, commenting on the unfortunate incident last year when details of parade participants names were inadvertently faxed to a third party, stated that ". . . this is not the first time this has happened,. . . . We have evidence in Portadown that it happened in 1998-99, when. . . information of that evidence was given to IRA activists in Portadown. . . ".


  The Parades Commission has no knowledge of the incident referred to.


Evidence presented by Mr Nigel Dawson, District Secretary, Mr David Burrows, Deputy District Master and Mr Richard Monteith, LLB Portadown District LOL No 1.

  1. Q 477—Mr Monteith commented that ". . . they (the Parades Commission) base their findings on, first of all, anyone who wants to come and speak to them and present whatever point of view they want and, secondly, their Authorised Officers and, thirdly reports from the police. . . . If the Parades Commission are basing their information on largely objectors and, secondly, those Authorised Officers who supply them with information there is no means of checking that information and it is open, really, to what anyone wants to tell them."


  The inference from Mr Monteith, that unsupported evidence from persons objecting to parades in some way counts for more than evidence received from, for example, the police, is untrue and unsubstantiated. The Commission will seek to verify any claims made with other parties, often the police, and will weigh all evidence before coming to a decision. It goes without saying that the Commission would welcome regular and participative input from the Loyal Orders to assist with decision making. The Commission has, over the past year and in previous years, met with all interested parties to the Drumcree dispute on a regular basis, including Mr Monteith as the Portadown District LOL No 1 legal advisor, and has taken evidence from these parties.

  2.  Q 479—Mr Monteith asserts that ". . . there simply has not been any attempt to facilitate mediation by the Parades Commission of Portadown whatsoever".


  The Commission has been particularly active in promoting mediation in that the Chairman has had frequent meetings with Mr Monteith, Mr Campbell and others to discuss and encourage them in finding ways forward. These meetings culminated in proposals that could form the basis of another party's mediation. The Commission notes also that there has rarely been an occasion over the last three years when some meditative effort, whether sponsored by the Prime Minister, the Northern Ireland Office or Mr Brian Currin, has not been active. It would have been foolish for the Commission to undermine these efforts with a separate attempt to mediate, particularly when there has been no willingness from the Loyal Orders to engage with the Commission on this or any other basis. With regard to the current efforts by Brian Currin to resolve the Drumcree dispute, the Commission has made its support for Mr Currin explicitly clear. As I have stated elsewhere in this letter, the Commission, while denied the opportunity to speak directly to the Portadown District LOL No 1, has endeavoured to persuade them, through the media, to follow the route map outlined in the determination on last July's main Drumcree parade, and clarified in the Belfast News Letter on Wednesday 5 July 2000. (Please see Appendix A7 attached).

  3.  Q 479—Mr Monteith affirms that the Parades Commission affords a "veto" to the residents groups, based on the likelihood of disorder.


  The same response is appropriate as pertains to item 4 of the responses to the Apprentice Boys of Derry, and item 5 of the responses to the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland.

  4.  Q 497—Mr Dawson asserts that the nationalist bands who notify to parade in Kilkeel do not come from the town, and that this in some way equates to the Portadown situation.


  The nationalist bands who paraded in Kilkeel last year and throughout recent years on 17 March and 15 August are all from the area known locally as the "Kingdom of Mourne", and would originate in the wider Kilkeel area. The Commission took a rights based approach. Given the demographics of the towns and the overwhelming frequency of parading by one side of the community. It was important to set a marker of shared space and the need for co-existence by permitting a nationalist expression of their belonging. Moreover the route paraded was very much a non-residential area. It has long been a point made by the Commission that it sets commercial areas as neutral areas.

First Minister, Mr Trimble, and his advisor Mr David Campbell.

  1. Q 428—Mr Trimble comments that he is not directly aware of things done by the Commission to actively mediate any specific case.


  First, the Commission is empowered to promote and facilitate mediation. Much of its work is concerned with this, whether that is in support of Brian Currin's work in Portadown or through the work of Authorised Officers or Mediation Network elsewhere. Even the encouragement of shorter term initiatives as occurred in Lower Ormeau recently is with a view to progressing to longer term mediation.

  Following the Commission's determination on Drumcree last year (Appendix A8), and the Review of that decision (Appendix A9), the Chairman wrote in the Belfast News Letter (Appendix A7), drawing up a "route map" which pointed a clear path for the Portadown District LOL No 1 to take which would make a parade more than a possibility.

  In the Drumcree dispute, the Commission met with Mr Trimble and Mr Campbell prior to the decision in an effort to reach a better understanding of efforts which Portadown District LOL No 1 had stated they had made to reach agreement. The Chairman has also had meetings with Mr Trimble and Mr Campbell in a effort to find a way forward.

230   Quotations of the oral evidence in this Appendix are taken from uncorrected transcripts, supplied to the Commission as a prospective witness. They may therefore differ slightly from the corrected versions published in this volume. Back

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