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The Case Against The Parades Commission

Background
The Parades Commission has its roots in the Independent Review of Parades and Marches as established by Her Majesty's Government in August 1996. The North Report as it became known was completed in January 1997.

The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland both in an initial submission to the Review body and in a response to their Report detailed our views on parades and the way forward. Regrettably the points we made in both instances were largely ignored.

The Independent Parades Commission was established on 26 March 1997. The Commission initially had an informal role.

On 17 October 1997 The Parades Procession (Northern Ireland) Bill was proposed by the Secretary of State, Dr. M. Mowlam, to formalise the remit of the Commission, including granting it authority to determine on parades.

The Grand Lodge again put forward its views and expressed to Government our concerns at the impact of the proposed legislation.

On 27 October 1997 the Parades Commission produced draft proposals in respect of Public Processions and Parades in the form of three booklets - a Code of Conduct, Procedural Rules and Guidelines.

It is interesting to note that on 25 April the Parades Commission had written to Grand Lodge seeking a nomination from the Institution to provide expert advice on a Code of Conduct. Grand Lodge confirmed on 2 June 1997 that it was willing to nominate two representatives to meet with the Parades Commission on this specific issue.

The original letter from the Parades Commission stated "The Commission is keen to ensure that in drafting the code, we should seek to build upon the expertise of those with most experience in organising parades and processions in order to produce a practical and sensible working document". Despite this our representatives were never invited to a meeting with the Parades Commission.

Upon becoming aware that the draft Code of Conduct was almost ready for publication we wrote on 13 October to the Parades Commission expressing surprise at this given the non involvement of our representatives. In a letter of 15 October from the Parades Commission we were advised that after publication of the draft our two representatives would be among those consulted. That never happened.

On 16 February 1998 the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 received Royal Assent.

Civil Liberties

(a) In Legislation.

In every democratic society the state has a responsibility to protect certain fundamental rights.

These include, freedom of religious belief, free speech, the right of free association, the right to live in peace and the right of cultural expression.

In many countries these rights are enshrined in either the constitution of the country or a Bill of Rights and collectively form basic human rights which are the entitlement of every citizen.

To deny any one of these is to question the right of freedom of the individual or a group of people in pursuit of lawful activity.

The right of free association and right of assembly underpin the right to parade.

In the United States of America the Constitution guarantees the rights of free expression and peaceful assembly.

The Federal Congress has its powers on these issues restricted in that "Congress shall make no law - - - abridging the freedom of speech - - - or the right of the people peaceably to assemble".

In the Republic of Ireland the Constitution likewise guarantees the right to peaceful assembly. Under the "Offences against the State Act 1939" it is unlawful to hold a public meeting or procession in support of an unlawful organisation.

The Belgian Constitution includes the following provision in Article 26 "Belgians have the right to gather peaceably and without arms".

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (1996) contains a Bill of Rights.

Article 17 states "Everyone has the right, peacefully and unarmed to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions".

Article 36 deals with the limitation of rights and states as follows. "The rights in the Bill of Rights may be limited only in terms of law of general application to the extent that the limitation is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom.

The European Convention on Human Rights was signed in November 1950 and came into force in September 1953. It has been ratified by the United Kingdom.

Article II of Section I of the Convention guarantees freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

"No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others".

The United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights expresses similar views in Article 21.

"The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognised. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others".

We appreciate that absolute freedom of assembly could lead to chaos and anarchy and there must be checks on it. Such checks are generally in the area of public order. These conflicting principles involve difficulties for liberal democracies but the norm in most nations is that the right of assembly is guaranteed subject to certain exceptions.

We would contend that the concept of placing restrictions on the right of free assembly in the interests of public order is obviously directed at those whose intention is to parade to create disorder.

(b) In the Courts.

Courts in the various countries have generally upheld the right to parade.

In the Northern Ireland context the following have found in favour of the right to parade.

1991 - Her Majesty's Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland. In the Matter of an Application by Connor Murphy for Judicial Review.

1992 - In the High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland.

July - Queens Bench Division.

In the Matter of an Application by Patricia Breen for Judicial Review.

August - In the High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland.

Queens Bench Division.

In the Matter of an Application by Jennifer Armstrong for Judicial Review.

1993 - In the High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland.

Queens Bench Division.

In the Matter of an Application by Matthew Murphy for Judicial Review.

Case law in England endorses the principle that a lawful parade should be guaranteed a right of passage.

Viz Beatty V Gillbanks 1892 and Regina V Clarke 1963

The Supreme Court in the United States of America has frequently upheld the right of free expression and free assembly. Indeed both Federal Courts and the Supreme Court have protected the rights of free expression and peaceful assembly against any attempt to have them banned or altered in some measure by those who are opposed to the views expressed or the principles of the organisation involved. The suggestion that parades be interfered with because they may cause offence has been totally rejected. On occasions the police have protected the marchers from a hostile crowd. An example of this policy involving an Orange Parade occurred in New York in 1871.

However the most famous case in America is the Skokie case.

The above are basic examples and the use of such illustrations does not imply recognition that Orange Parades are in some way offensive.

The Parades Commission - Why We Oppose It

(a) It is an unelected quango allegedly accountable to no one for the decisions it makes. We are deeply disappointed that the creation of another quango is considered in any way an adequate or even a realistic answer to the problems facing our society.

(b) The apparatus it operates within, the Public Processions (N.I.) Order is legislation which in our opinion fundamentally undermines basic human rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of movement. As an organisation committed to Civil and Religious Liberty for all it would be hypocritical of us to support the Commission.

(c) The work of the Commission legitimises the concept of apartheid. By accepting the view that the public highway cannot be traversed by certain groups because people of another tradition may live on or near part of the route is to give credibility to an apartheid system based on cultural, racial or religious grounds. The Orange Institution in South Africa could not operate in the apartheid era because we could not accept the restrictions it imposed. We cannot accept apartheid within Northern Ireland.

(d) The Commission is not independent. Its failure to announce on the preliminary determination relative to Portadown District at the request of Government clearly proves this. It may be argued that any Government appointed body is likely to do the bidding of its political masters.

(e) The Commission is incapable of abiding by its own procedural rules in that it has not announced the determinations as promised.

(f) The Commission and the legislation provides for a "law breakers charter". The North Report stressed that legislation must "provide no encouragement for those who seek to promote disorder". Inevitably however the Commission will issue determinations based on the possible violent reaction of others to parades.

(g) The Commission is not representative of the Community and it has amongst its members some who have expressed very strong views on parades.

The Parades Commission at work

It is a fact that many people in Northern Ireland including members of the Orange Institution see the Parades Commission as part of the problem rather than part of the solution as was predicted in May 1997, by Ken Maginnis, M.P.

Civil liberties have been denied. Community relations have deteriorated and the threat of violence by protest groups has been rewarded.

Within the framework of the existing legislation the Parades Commission because of its power to issue determinations has effectively destroyed any possibility of it facilitating mediation. The News Letter of 20 December 1997 stated that the Rev. Roy Magee had resigned from the Commission "to use his mediation skills" - but on the ground rather than as part of a body being given the clout to ban and re-route contentious parades.

This power to issue determinations on parades means that the legislation is perceived as being one sided. Parades are much more important to the Protestant/Unionist community as an expression of their culture and identity than to the Nationalist community. The Commission would have at least started from a "level playing field" if it had been established as a cultural commission with the ability to consider all aspects of culture and how they impact upon the community.

It would also have been more effective if it had been established as an advisory committee as suggested by the General Board of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in June 1996.

It is our opinion that the Commission has incorrectly interpretated the legislation in regard to Clause 7 of the Public Processions Northern Ireland Act 1998 and specifically with regard to "any public disorder or damage to property which may result from the procession".

Logic surely dictates that only if those on parade are involved in public disorder or damage to property should their civil liberties be infringed. The reality however is that numerous parades have had conditions imposed upon them because of the threat of public disorder etc. from another source. The Independent Review of Parades and Marches stresses in Paragraph 50, Point V, of the Executive Summary that legislation must "provide no encouragement for those who seek to promote disorder". Regretfully that is precisely what has happened.

The Parades Commission has to have regard to any impact which the procession may have on relationships within the community. With one notable exception (Ormeau Road July 1998) the Commission have assumed that relationships are only affected if a "disputed" Orange parade proceeds. It would appear that the feelings of protestors are viewed with more compassion than those engaging in a peaceful witness for their faith or expression of their culture.

It is quite astounding that the Parades Commission have singularly failed to recognise the fact that opposition to Orange parades has been orchestrated for political purposes by Sinn Fein.

It is well documented how this campaign was established by convicted terrorists to increase tension within the community and not because there was a difficulty per se with Orange parades.

The words of Gerry Adams speaking at a Republican Conference in County Meath (Republic of Ireland) in 1997 stated "Ask any activist in the North did Drumcree happen by accident, and they will tell you 'no' --- three years of work on the Lower Ormeau Road, Portadown and parts of Fermanagh and Newry, Armagh and Bellaghy and up in Derry". "Three years work went into creating that situation, and fair play to those people who put the work in".

Statements like this and other documented evidence clearly shows the political nature of opposition to Orange parades, and it is a dangerous fallacy to believe that such opposition can be placated through adjustments made by those on parade. There is a well orchestrated campaign to destory our cultural expression and our civil rights.

In their determination to date the Parades Commission have:-

i) Issued contradictory statements.

ii) Been inaccurate.

iii) Shown little evidence of research.

iv) Taken decisions because of perceived threats from others.

v) Been inconsistent in their determinations.

vi) Shown an obvious lack of accountability.

There are many examples of these but in the interests of brevity we intend to highlight only a few.

(a) Contradictory Statements

I. In the determination pertaining to Crumlin on 13th July 1998 it states "There will be disruption to the life of the community which is an inevitable aspect of a parade on this scale". However in determinations where parades have conditions imposed it invariably cites disruption to the life of the community as a reason.

II. In relation to parades on the Ormeau Road a determination of 28 June 1998 stated that conditions still did not exist to enable a parade to take place. However a determination of 6 July 1998 (a mere eight days later) approved a parade on the Ormeau Road on 13th July.

III. The 12th July 1999 Orange parade in Newtownhamilton was restricted "because of the impact on community relations of this traditional parade proceeding along the entirity of the notified route". On 17 March 2000 a Nationalist parade in Kilkeel was allowed to parade its full route along the mainly Unionist Greencastle Street - something that had not happened for over 25 years.

(b) Inaccuracies

I. In relation to Ballynafeigh a preliminary consideration claimed there is a lengthy history of opposition to parades on the Ormeau Road but goes on to say that until the early 70's the Ormeau Road was considered a Protestant area and that there are no records of formal protests at the parades prior to 1992. Where then is the lengthy opposition?

II. In the 1998 Newry determination whilst referring to the 12th July 1996 in Newry it states "Later in the day a peaceful protest was mounted in Hill Street in opposition to the main Twelfth Parade". In fact this was far from peaceful with the marchers subject to sectarian abuse and the police had difficulty in containing the so called "peaceful protestors".

III. The 1998 Consideration of Contentious Parades in Newry advised that Newry and Mourne District Council had established a committee to discuss arrangements for dialogue between nationalist residents and the loyal orders --- However we understand --- the Loyal Orders have failed to respond to this opportunity. Newry Orangemen in fact met several Unionist Councillors together with the Clerk of Council and a number of Council Officers. In addition, a written submission was made to the committee.

IV. In its consideration of the "Tour of the North" parade in Belfast in June 1998 the Parades Commission refers to the proposed route passing close to the Clifton Tavern the scene of a sectarian attack". Clifton Tavern is not near the parade route. Aside from this the Orange Order has always condemned sectarian attacks and it is despicable to use such an attack as an excuse to deny our cultural expression.

(c) Lack of Research

The Commission appears to have fallen into the trap of accepting evidence at "face value".

I. In the context of Portadown the Parades Commission appear to have concerned themselves with socio-economic conditions as presented by the residents of the Garvaghy Road. There is no evidence of the Commission having attempted to ascertain the facts.

II. Determinations about Portadown have consistently failed to take into account proximity talks etc. had taken place.

III. In the Ballynafeigh situation it is noted that talks took place in 1995 and that agreement had not been achieved. However there is no evidence of why this was. Simple research would have shown that the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community grouping backed out of the agreement.

IV. The Newry 1998 Determination states "the residents group has challenged loyal order parades through the main commercial centre of Newry" - There are no residents along the parade route in the "commercial centre".

V. In respect of the 12th July 1999 Newtownhamilton determination the Commission states "Dundalk Street is perceived to be nationalist and almost entirely residential in character". In fact Dundalk Street is a mixed area with both Protestant Residents and Protestant businesses (it is accepted that the majority of residents are Roman Catholic). Statements like this from the Parades Commission only give credence to apartheid and given the record of ethnic cleansing in South Armagh there is a grave danger of such statements becoming accurate.

VI. In the determination for the 12th July 1999 parade in Lurgan the Commission stated "the potential disruption to the life of the community---- which it considers would come about as a result of this parade". When challenged the Commission suddenly realised that "there should be little disruption to the life of the community at 8.15 a.m." on a Public Holiday.

(d) Threats From Others

I. Determinations for Castlewellan have noted that those on parade have always behaved with dignity and there is very little disruption to the life of the community but the parades have had restrictions imposed because of the threat of confrontation by those opposed to the parade.

II. In Newry, it is recognised that there is no evidence of public disorder brought about by the behaviour of those on parade, but there has been incidents of disorder where some engaged in protest action clashed with the police.

III. In Bellaghy reference is made to the disruption to the life of the community because of police action necessitated by protest against the Parade and subsequently the parades have had restrictions imposed.

IV. The determination for an Orange parade on 12th July 1999 in Strabane states that there has been "minimal disruption to the life of the community" and that the proposed parade "does not of itself constitute either a threat to public order or to have an adverse impact upon community relations". However, the parade had restrictions placed upon it because in the view of the Commission there was "potential for serious disorder and damage to property should the parade proceed --- at the same time as a notified protest is taking place".

V. In the June 1998 "Tour of the North" determination the Commission states "we heard no evidence of bad behaviour on the part of --- participants in the parade. Indeed we were told of efforts made by Orangemen to ensure rigorous stewarding of the parade and of the steps taken to control "hangers on"---. However the Commission concludes by noting the "potential for public disorder arising not from the behaviour of the parade participants but from the reaction the parade will provoke".

(e) Inconsistency

I. The 1998 Determinations regarding Portadown and the Ormeau Road are inherently inconsistent. It is accepted that in relation to Portadown "It is a Church Parade, it has been demonstrated that it can take place in an orderly fashion and the Garvaghy Road is an arterial route". The Ballynafeigh determination refers to a history of parades being associated with public disorder, considerable disruption to the life of the community, a significant adverse impact on relationships within the community and that some parades would not have measured up to standards in the Code of Conduct. Yet the Portadown parade had conditions imposed whilst the Ormeau Road parade proceeded (N.B. we do not accept the statements ref. Ballynafeigh as being accurate).

II. As stated above the 1998 preliminary consideration of parades on the Ormeau Road refers to a history of parades being associated with public disorder---- from the behaviour of some parade participants. The 12th July 1999 determination for the Ormeau Road states "there has been no recent history of disorder or damage to property resulting from the behaviour of members of the Orange Order".

III. The Ballynafeigh determination approving the parade states "there is now a clear emerging sense of deep hurt amongst loyalists which arise from decisions to re-route. This is in danger of spilling over into serious law and order situation which is harmful to both communities. We therefore cannot ignore the damaging effect that this will have on relationships within the wider community". Is this not also true of Portadown and a number of other areas?

IV. In relation to a parade in Mountfield on 28 June the Commission "noted the potential for disorder" arising from a nationalist protest and "the likelihood of significant disruption to the life of the community". The determination goes on to state "these factors in isolation do not justify a decision to impose conditions". In countless other determinations these factors are used to justify the imposition of conditions.

V. The determination for a Church parade in Pomeroy on 11th July 1999 states "we would generally see Church parades which are on a smaller scale, as least likely either to cause disruption or to impact adversely on relationships within the community provided they are limited to processing from their normal starting point to the Church in question". The truth of the matter however is that numerous small Church parades, most notably in Dunloy and on the Ormeau Road, Belfast, have had restrictions imposed.

(f) Lack of Accountability

The Parades Commission has in the past adopted a dogmatic and condescending approach without fear of rebuke or correction. It has long been our opinion that the Parades Commission should have been made accountable to parliamentary scrutiny, possibly through the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and we suggested this to Her Majesty's Government at the time of the recent review.

Conclusion

A considered view of the work of the Parades Commission must conclude that it has failed to meet its objectives. The Orange Institution would contend that this was inevitable.

Even more seriously however the outworking of the Parades Commission has moved beyond this through its alienation of a large section of the people and its perceived bias against the parading tradition of the Protestant community.

A detailed examination of Parade Commission determinations will prove that there is little consistency applied and even less logic.

It appears that any excuse will be used to impose conditions on a parade even though it may directly contradict other statements by the Commission.

The most obvious example of a facetious reason occurred in the 1998 determination for Portadown District L.O.L. No. 1's Church parade to Drumcree Parish Church when the Commission stated "---it is a Church parade, it has been demonstrated that it can take place in an orderly fashion, and the Garvaghy Road is an arterial route. HOWEVER WE SEE THE NEED TO BREAK THE CYCLE---"

This has even been carried to the extent that responsible leadership by the Orange Institution in relation to parades has subsequently been used against it. For example Orangemen in Armagh on 12th July 1997 voluntarily curtailed their parade route in response to a deteriorating security situation and the Parades Commission reaction in a determination for 12th July 1999 imposed route restrictions "which reflected the voluntary curtailment of traditional parades in 1997".

As previously stated we do not believe that the Parades Commission as it is presently constituted can deal with the issues and it should be abolished.

In the absence of this it most certainly must be made accountable and the interpretation of the legislation must be logical and unbiased. In particular the provisions of Human Rights legislation must be applied whereby the threat of others cannot be allowed to interfere with the legitimate right of a people to express their faith or culture.

A Critique of the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1997.

The legislation is very directly "the child" of the "Independent Review of Parades and Marches" commonly referred to as the "North Report".

Grand Lodge in responding to that Report expressed its disappointment and stated that although the language was cautious, guarded, and academic the thrust of the argument seemed to be that negotiations should take place with local residents. This has been paraphrased as "no talk this year no walk next year". The new Bill would appear to go further with simply "no talk no walk".

Together with all the other law abiding citizens Orangemen possess certain inalienable rights. Among these is the right of free assembly and that necessitates the right to proceed in a peaceable and orderly manner to and from the place of assembly whether it be a church or other venue. We hold that these rights are non negotiable. There can be no question of one group of free citizens having to ask permission from any self appointed authority to walk the public highways of our land.

It is irrefutable that Sinn Fein/I.R.A. is manipulating certain "residents groups" with a view to preventing or impeding Orangemen in the exercise of their civil rights. This therefore prevents law abiding Orangemen from talking to such groups. No reasonable person can expect dialogue under such circumstances.

The North Report listed our concerns in Paragraph 19 of its summary but there is no attempt at analysis or research into whether our concerns are valid. Indeed most of our concerns are not mentioned again anywhere in the summary. This type of thinking has been carried into the proposed Bill where our views and concerns have not been addressed. One might even say they have been ignored.

North did not inquire into the involvement of Sinn Fein/I.R.A. in the "Concerned Residents Groups", there was no analysis of why Parades between 1989 and 1994 were not contentious, yet some Parades suddenly became a major provocation in 1995. Of course North in Paragraph 20 of the Executive Summary states that our "Parades here in the past had at best been tolerated, not welcomed". Toleration is indeed all we ask!

The North Report stresses in Paragraph 50, Point V, on Page 14 of the Executive Summary that Legislation must "provide no encouragement for those who seek to promote disorder". This is precisely what the proposed quango with executive powers will do wherever the public can initiate a complaint that any of our Parades are controversial and there are now 28 days for Sinn Fein to "organise".

The Parades Commission will be a complaint factory and many more Parades will be challenged. Thus the law will in effect be "anti Parades Legislation".

Of course there is also the whole question of an "independent" Commission. In such a divided and polarised society it is dangerous to leave appointments to such a body open to influence from nominations from Dublin (Anglo Irish Diktat). It is, further, an arguable point whether any quango can ever be impartial or whether it will simply carry out the wishes of the appointing body.

In June 1987 at a Seminar held by the Legal Research Committee of the Faculty of Law at Queens University, Belfast, it was noted than an independent tribunal to consider the re-routing of Parades would be viewed with grave suspicion by the Orange community.

Over ten years later and against the background of an increased targeting of Orange culture and liberties by Sinn Fein/I.R.A. those "grave suspicions" would be expressed in stronger terms.

To give Sinn Fein/I.R.A. the opportunity to challenge ever more Parades, to make the Commission's recommendations legally enforceable instead of advisory and to instigate even more criminal offences will only exacerbate an already delicate and difficult situation.
 
 

COMMENTS ON SPECIFIC CLAUSES

 Clause 1

This allows for the establishment of a Parades Commission.

The creation of the Commission gives us yet another quango. This at a time when the Government are actually undertaking a United Kingdom wide consultation about Non- Departmental Public Bodies (N.D.P.B.'S or Quango's).
 

 Clause 2

It is difficult to reconcile the statement in Clause 2 (1) (b) "promote and facilitate mediation ........." with the legislative powers whereby the Commission can "issue determinations" Clause 2 (2) (b). This is hardly the way to promote trust - the essential ingredient in any mediation process.

Clause 2 (3) will undoubtedly provide for a growth in self styled experts receiving money from the public purse to advise the Commission on what really should be a policing decision.

In our opinion if the Commission was deemed necessary then it should have had advisory powers.
 

 Clause 3

 A Statutory Code of Conduct - raises many problems. The element of compulsion to abide by a legally - enforceable code is, in itself, an unnecessary restriction on civil liberty. We do not place any trust in a so called "independent" Commission to be able to monitor our Parades in a neutral manner. Why change existing Law which is already restrictive?

Our comments on the draft code of conduct published by the Parades Commission are set out later in this document.
 

 Clause 4

The draft procedural rules published by the Commission set out the procedures to be followed. These procedural rules allow for an input from those not just on the Parade route but "the immediate vicinity". This is "ready made" for Sinn Fein to orchestrate and manipulate.

The importance of landmarks of sensitive historic significance will also be used by Sinn Fein to castigate parades e.g. the cynical use of the tragic murders at Sean Graham's Bookmakers on the Ormeau Road.

The Commission will take evidence from both invited groups and those who may respond to a public advertisement. The evidence will be in private session and in a "neutral venue". Both oral and written evidence is acceptable. All evidence will be treated as confidential and only for the use of the Commission. There may be a technical difficulty in this in that without being aware of what protesters are saying Parade Organisers would have difficulty in countering allegations that in many instances are basically untrue.
 

 Clause 5

The draft guidelines published by the Commission raise many concerns and our comments are as set out later in this document.
 

 Clause 6

Clause 6 deals with advance notice of public processions. The necessity of providing 28 days is a further restriction on civil liberties. It does not impinge upon Orange Parades particularly as they are generally organised well in advance. The new notice could however affect community activity.

The legislation in Northern Ireland should have been brought into line with the rest of the United Kingdom (6 clear days in England and Wales and seven days in Scotland) as per the Public Order Act 1986 and the Civic Government Act (Scotland) 1982.

Where Clause 6 (4) (c) requires notice of the number of persons likely to take part it would have been more practical to refer to the estimated number of persons likely to take part.

Clause 6 (4) (e) pinpoints an organising person - it should be an organising body.

Clause 6 (4) (f) should refer to a contact person rather than parade organisers.

Clause 6 (5) provides for exceptions to advance notice of parades. Traditionality should be observed in this section as in Public Order Act 1986 where exception is made where the procession is commonly or customarily held in the area or areas in which it is proposed to be held.
 
NEW CLAUSE

The new Clause dealing with "related protest meetings" clearly shows how far those who drew up the legislation are detached from the reality of Northern Ireland.

This Clause is clearly intended as a "sop" to the Orange Institution. As such it fails miserably.
 

Clause 7

 The Commission may issue a determination affecting - route, prohibiting a Parade entering any place whilst not specified will undoubtedly include such things as timing and numbers.

Clause 7 (6) brings in an new and disturbing criteria into the guidelines i.e. "any impact which the procession may have on relationships within the community" and also removes the very important word serious from the corresponding articles in the Public Order 1987 Order dealing with disorder or disruption. One also has to be clear what is meant by (a) "public disorder or damage to property which may result from the procession" and (b) "disruption to the life of the community which the procession may cause". This should not be used as an excuse to stop a procession because others may create trouble not those on parade. The meaning of these Clauses must be clearly defined. The guidelines should be as the Public Order Act of 1986 and/or the Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1987.

Clause 8

 The Secretary of State has the power to review on an application made by the Chief Constable. What powers of appeal do parade organisers have? This should be addressed.

Clause 10

 This Clause provides for the Secretary of State's powers to prohibit public processions. They are essentially the same as those provided for the parades commission in Clause 7 though importantly the words "serious" and "undue" are included in this..

In Clause 10 (d) note should be taken as to who are responsible for the undue demands - if it is protesters it should not be a reason to impose conditions upon a Parade.

The Secretary of State should consult the Parade Organisers.

Clause 11

 Clause 11 provides for the Registration of Bands. Grand Lodge has consistently opposed this as an infringement of civil liberties. We believe this should be deleted as it is an attack on an important feature of the culture of the community.

Clause 12

 This Clause deals with the control of alcohol - we have no objections to this though it should not be confined to Public Processions Legislation. It would be better if this was in Public Order Legislation.

Clause 13

 Here we find the "crumbs" that are meant to show this as balanced legislation. This Clause deals with "Breaking up a Public Procession."

Once again we have a perfect example of "North's idealised world". Protesters are to be guilty of an offence if they behave "offensively and abusively". Admirable as the sentiments may be we really don't see them working in reality.
 

CONCLUSION

In an immediate reaction to the proposed Bill, Grand Lodge stated that there was nothing in this legislation for us and claimed that it was draconian legislation contrary to the principles of civil liberty.

A more detailed examination of the Bill confirms the Institution's worst fears.

It is undoubtedly aimed at curtailing our Parades and is a direct attack on both our faith (in as much as Parades to and from Church are an extension of our public witness) and our culture.

Once again the Government have either failed to understand the core of the problem or have taken the easy option of dealing with the generally law abiding population, possibly as part of the ongoing confidence building measures for republicans. Peaceful Parades are not the problem - it is the activity of those who oppose such Parades which create the difficulty.

There are no effective powers to deal with counter demonstrations or demonstrators.

The issue of other expressions of cultural identity is not adequately dealt with.

There is no guarantee or protection for Traditional Parades, indeed there is no effective recognition that our Parades are traditional and a distinct part of our cultural, social and political heritage.

The Bill is racist in that it only applies to one part of the United Kingdom.
 

PARADES COMMISSION - DRAFT CODE OF CONDUCT

The Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Bill in Clause 4 empowers the Commission to issue a "Code of Conduct".

The purpose of the Code is:-

(a) Providing guidance to persons organising a Public Procession.

(b) Regulating the conduct of persons organising or taking part in a Public Procession.

The "roots" of this are very much in the North Report 12.39 to 13.55.

In his introduction the Chairman of the Parades Commission concedes "The vast majority of Parades, however take place in a peaceful and non confrontational atmosphere".

This will change as the new Legislation will provide an even greater opportunity for peaceful Parades to be challenged by those who wish to remove this expression of our cultural identity.

In the second paragraph of Page Two the claim is made that the aim of the Code "is to ensure that those participating in Parades can do so while at the same time minimising disruption, annoyance, or offence to those who work or live on or near the routes along which they pass".

These are fine words but when taken with the rest of the Legislation mean nothing in that the implementation of various Clauses in the Bill will ensure that we never get as far as implementing the Code of Conduct.

It is also interesting to note that the Commission accept the principle that those who live "near the routes" have an input.

This is contrary to our expressed opinion and will serve to make things even more difficult.

In the ultimate paragraph of this section the Commission have shown that they have "swallowed" republican terminology when they refer to "a contentious Parade".

We made this point in our response to the North Report when we posed the question "What makes a Parade contentious?" Grand Lodge went on to advise that "in each trouble spot the hand of Sinn Fein manipulation is clearly discernible". Once again this has been ignored as the spotlight is turned on the Parades rather than the core of the problem.

The Preparation

Routes

  • The code raises the question of routes relative to timing etc. through commercial centres and suggest that Parade Organisers should give business people etc. maximum notice.

This is not a major problem for the Institution as our Parades tend to be on Sundays or Public Holidays. It could however make things difficult for some Parades held on normal Saturdays. We certainly could have major difficulties in staging large Rallies such as happened in 1985 and 1986. Then again there is the possibility of increasing trading on Sundays bringing problems in its wake.

The proposed Code will require Parade Organisers to liaise with the "relevant clergyman" if a Parade is to pass a Church to determine if a service is to be held at the time of the Parade.

The desirability of the Parade Organisers amending times or re-routing is stressed.

We would suggest this is an impractical and unnecessary requirement.

The Orange Institution has always shown due respect to those participating in acts of worship. We have, however, had experience of some introducing special services obviously designed to coincide with our Parades.

If we are to put Public Notices in newspapers etc. about Parades maybe Churches should be compelled to do the same about services.

If the route passes through a residential area Parade Organisers again have to let local people know through leaflet drops, newspaper notices etc. Apparently this will allow the local people to amend their routine. Where on earth have the Parades Commission been? The "residents" on Ormeau Road, Garvaghy Road, etc. have had ample notice of Parades and have actually used the situation to pretend that they were prevented from going about their normal business, even though these Parades were at a time when this is patently untrue.

If the Parade passes through an area where people of another cultural identity live organisers will have to provide details of the person to whom representatives of the local community might approach. Imagine voluntarily giving Sinn Fein details!

The reasonable steps quoted by the Commission as likely to meet residents concerns are amusing. If they seriously think that furling our banners or playing some insignificant tune will please those that categorically state "No Orange Feet" then again we have to question whether the Commissioners inhabit the real world.

The thrust of all this section is of course dialogue - No Talk - No Walk.
 
The Commission states that it will be necessary to ensure that stewards are well informed of what action should be taken in an emergency situation where, for example, an ambulance, police vehicle or fire engine requires urgent passage along the route.

This is totally patronising. Anyone organising a Parade should have sufficient sense to allow emergency vehicles to proceed.

Bands

Again we find this section to be patronising and a reference to our Conditions of Engagement doesn't really "wash" with us.
 

Stewarding

As an organisation we should be aware of the necessity of good stewarding and in general terms we do quite well. The point about stewards being trained is probably fair comment. We wonder if finance will be made available to assist with this?

Providing Notice

Whilst the new Legislation will require 28 days the Commission would obviously like us to give more particularly in respect of a series of proposed Parades along a route.

Since 1987 Grand Lodge has instructed that we do no more than give the required notice.

The Parade

This deals with how everyone should be familiar with Legislation and conditions applied to the Parade. In this we would be assisting in ensuring that people could not, if charged, offer the defence that they were not aware of conditions etc.

There is an interesting statement in the ultimate paragraph of the Code where it states "that all participants, including bands, have clear information on any arrangements to ensure rapid and peaceful dispersal". At first this seems (and indeed may be) totally innocuous. Could it however be used to prevent a "stand off" if for example one of the conditions imposed on the Drumcree Church Parade was that the Parade disperse outside the Church.

APPENDIX A
 

Behaviour - There are not difficulties with the first three Clauses. In our opinion there is a problem with the next two in that the Code of Conduct and the Legislation as they currently exist are seriously flawed.
 
 

Dress - We would accept this though we would hope that allowances are made for historical emblems. For example we should be able to honour "Carson's Army" and as has happened carry the original colours of the "Ulster Volunteer Force" of that time.
 
 

March - Using one side of the carriageway is what happens in many parts of the United Kingdom. In itself it is not a major consideration although the Police may not be too happy with traffic passing Parades from a Public Order perspective.
 
 Route - This obviously impacts upon our belief in freedom of assembly and freedom of movement. If as we have contested Traditional Parades are permitted without hindrance and indeed are given the protection of the law then there would be no problem.
 
 Alcohol - This is perfectly acceptable and should be standard procedure for our Parades.
 
 Music - Dealt with in appendix B. No difficulty with the prevention of instruments bearing the mark of a paramilitary or proscribed organisation allowing for the historical context previously mentioned above.
 
 Flags - Accept that no flags relating to a paramilitary or proscribed organisation should be displayed with the allowance as stated above.

There may be a problem with the fact that flags "should not depict any scene which could reasonably be perceived as provocative, threatening, abusive, or insulting". Can this be defined? Could there be those who perceive the motto "suffered death rather than submit to popery" found on many of our banners depicting Latimer and Ridley as insulting.

In the "liberal idealised world" of the Parades Commission this is certainly a possibility. Of course the so called Residents Groups have said that an Orange Sash, an Open Bible, or the Crown are provocative.
 
 Stewards - Comments previously noted apply.

The requirement for a Steward to identify to the Police "any persons in the Parade who may be committing any offence against the criminal law (or this Code) is again a product of either an ideal world or "cloud cuckoo land".

Policing - The Institution has always been anxious to co-operate with the Police.

Disposal - Previous comments apply.

Abiding by Conditions - comments made relative to "The Parade" applies.


APPENDIX B

"Behaviour in the vicinity of sensitive locations".
 

Places of Worship - We would accept this as being reasonable.

War Memorials etc. - Again this is quite reasonable.

Where the majority population of the vicinity are of a different tradition and in interface areas.

Could someone define "sectarian" tunes - we resent the usual implication that "the Sash" is a sectarian tune.

It goes without saying that "behaviour should be respectful".

The prohibition of "conduct, words, or music likely to cause offence or sectarian antagonism" needs careful definition. We are well used to people claiming to be offended.
 

PARADES COMMISSION: GUIDELINES

The Guidelines have been produced by the Commission in compliance with Clause 6 of the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Bill.

The Commission claim that in drawing up the Guidelines that they have "worked on the fundamental premise that the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression as outlined in the European Convention on Human Rights are important rights to be enjoyed equally by all".

The Commission Chairman in his Foreword goes on to say that they "will not therefore seek to raise obstacles to the exercise of these rights unless there are compelling arguments to do so".

The Guidelines are to prove "a basis for establishing what is fair and just in relation to any contentious Parade".
 

  • 1. Introduction.   Deals with the principles the Commission considers should underpin the community's future approach to "Parades and Protests". (Interestingly the Legislation; Code of Conduct, Procedural Rules and their Guidelines do not actually deal with protests to any extent).

    The principle of local accommodation is stressed. (No Talk No Walk). The assertion that the right to peaceful free assembly should be tempered with the likely effect on relationships with other parts of the community is mirrored in the Legislation. Does this apply to protesters? Of course the Legislation has failed to recognise that protesters are the problem not peaceful Parades.
     
     

    1. (vii) Provides for an interesting concept where it states "...... the enforcement of subsequent decisions should be proportioned to the issues at stake". There is every opportunity to exploit situations by protesters threatening major disruption (as has previously happened).
     

    1.2 Deals with Clauses in the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Bill. Our objections to these are covered in the notes on the Legislation.
     
     

  • 2. Public Disorder   The Commission will take advice from the R.U.C. on the Public Order ramifications of a decision. Are we into the "might is right" syndrome?
     
     
  • 3. Disruption to the Life of the Community   It is recognised that some disruption is inevitable with any public procession. The Commission will therefore look at the level of disruption.

    They distinguish between disruption caused by the procession itself and disruption caused by any associated protest activity or police action. The end result is likely to be the same given our experiences of the last few years when we have been told that the R.U.C. couldn't police parades because of outside violence and the Parade was restricted.

    Factors to be taken into account include:-

    Restriction of freedom of movement by local residents.

    Restriction of access to shops or other businesses.
    Restriction of access to public amenities such as hospitals.
    Restriction of access to places of worship.

    One can imagine the "fun" Sinn Fein spin doctors will have with this list.
     
     

  • 4. Impact of the Procession on Relationships within the Community  This appears to have the potential for major difficulties.

    As a general rule the Commission will regard commercial town/city centres as neutral zones. Once again however whilst this sounds fine there is the question of the points raised in the Code of Conduct under the heading "Routes" dealing with Parades on Saturdays outwith Public Holidays.

    There is a set of Guidelines which the Commission will take into account where "residents and parade organisers are in conflict over proposals for Parades to pass through individual areas". Yet again the Commission has missed the point. As expressed in our comments on the North Report we have no dispute with any Residents Group and it is not mere pedantry to insist that statements of this nature should conform to fact and truth.

    These Guidelines are as previously laid out in the Code of Conduct and Legislation and collectively seriously impinge upon freedom of movement.

    In Section 4.3 the Commission yet again appear to have accepted the terminology of republicanism. In an attempt to "measure fear or a sense of intimidation" the Commission will take into account a number of factors such as the purpose of the parade numbers on parade etc.
     

    There are some worrying aspects:-
     

    (a) The use of term "Regalia" associated with the Parade. What is the definition of Regalia? A phrase basically associated with our Institution.
     

    (b) The nature and number of bands and the type of music they play. Whilst we believe that we should only engage bands of a high standard. We resent others infringing our liberties by dictating the number and type of bands we engage.

    Again we would express concern at the insinuation accompanying references to the type of music.

    In Section 4.4. the Commission will take upon itself the assessment of "the impact upon not only the immediate community but on the wider Northern Ireland community" of previous Parades in an area. This surely opens up the real possibility of widespread disturbance being used to stop Parades in future years. Over the last few years the Institution has been held responsible for almost everything in the aftermath of each "Drumcree".

    •  5. Compliance with the Code of Conduct   One of the factors which the Commission will assess in making a determination on a Parade is how the organisers have complied with the Code of Conduct. Please see comments on Code of Conduct.
    • 6. Desirability of allowing a Parade which has been customarily held   The Commission in my opinion are merely paying lip service to the concept of traditionality. When placed alongside all the other factors this will mean practically nothing.