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
The Independent Parades Commission was
established on 26 March 1997. The Commission initially had an
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
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.
(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
To deny any one of these is to question the right
of freedom of the individual or a group of people in pursuit of
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
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
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
1992 - In the High Court of Justice in Northern
July - Queens Bench Division.
In the Matter of an Application by Patricia
Breen for Judicial Review.
August - In the High Court of Justice in
Queens Bench Division.
In the Matter of an Application by Jennifer
Armstrong for Judicial Review.
1993 - In the High Court of Justice in Northern
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
(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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
ON SPECIFIC CLAUSES
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
The draft guidelines published by the Commission raise many
concerns and our comments are as set out later in this document.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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
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
The Bill is racist in that it only applies to one part of the
COMMISSION - DRAFT CODE OF CONDUCT
The Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Bill in
Clause 4 empowers the Commission to issue a "Code of
The purpose of the Code is:-
(a) Providing guidance to persons organising a Public
(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
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
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 code raises the question of routes relative to timing
etc. through commercial centres and suggest that Parade
Organisers should give business people etc. maximum
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
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
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
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
Again we find this section to be patronising and a reference
to our Conditions of Engagement doesn't really "wash"
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?
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.
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.
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
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
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.
"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
It goes without saying that "behaviour should be
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.
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
The Guidelines are to prove "a basis for establishing
what is fair and just in relation to any contentious
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).
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
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
- Restriction of access to public amenities such as
- 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
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
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
(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
- 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