Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140 - 159)



  140. Let me say to my colleagues that because the topography of this room does not give me as good a view of all my colleagues at any one time, if anybody does want to come in with supplementaries in the nature of the evidence which is being given to us, please do not hesitate to indicate, but you will have to be rather more violent in gesturing if I am actually going to be able to see you. I am most grateful to Dr Jarman. May I just go back to Mr Bryan's evidence. Towards the end of your response you used the phrase "dealt with". I think you said that the issue of either conflict or blocking needed to be dealt with. I was not quite clear what "dealt with" meant.
  (Dr Bryan) Quite simply, you have to understand the strong feelings that people within the Protestant community feel over this issue. It cannot be disregarded and you have to find ways of creating an environment where they feel less pressured. I mean, one could make an objective argument that the parading tradition within the Protestant community is very, very strong, has remained strong, there are large numbers of parades and in many ways it has expanded over the last few years, and yet the perception within that community seems to be that their tradition is under threat. That differential is something that needs to be talked though and dealt with, and I feel that that community should not feel in that area as under threat as it does. It should in fact be celebrating the fact that, in expansion of band parades and many commemorations, its tradition has grown over the last few years and not been restricted.
  (Mr Hamilton) If I may also add a clarification on what "dealt with" might mean. In taking on board the concerns that the Loyalist community might have about objections to its parades, there is one of the legislative criteria which the Parades Commission can consider when doing so, and that is the desirability of allowing a parade customarily held in one particular route to continue to be held. In dealing with that issue the Parades Commission has taken account of that factor. On my analysis of 1998 and 1999 determinations, while it has not been one of the overriding factors that has persuaded the Commission, they have in 1998 taken that into account in 14 per cent of their determinations and this rose in 1999 to 24 per cent.

  Chairman: Thank you very much indeed.

Mr Hunter

  141. Just to follow up a point which you made earlier, I appreciate that there is a history of problems arising from parades that goes back a long, long time, but is it not the case that a different dimension has entered into the scenario in recent years, that we are now looking at a trend in which, increasingly, the number of contentious parades increases and a degree of orchestration of protest against them. Is this not a new dimension in the age-old problem of parades?
  (Dr Bryan) There has been a clear campaign within the Nationalist community around the issue of parades. How much this has come about through being a concerted joined-up campaign I think is a matter of debate. However, I think there is a whole range of relationships which has created the situation we have now. The political situation has meant that this issue has been a helpful one within Nationalist communities. There can be no doubt about that. It has provided an issue in which Sinn Fein and the SDLP have been able to have much common ground over their feelings. It has also played upon many existing feelings within those communities. I find it ridiculous, this idea that you sometimes hear, that leaders of residents groups can somehow create this situation from nothing. The reality is that much of the resentment over these parades has existed for a period of time. But I also think one has to look at the changes of policing that has taken place. The recent round of disputes can probably be traced back to the early 1980s and I suspect it came at a time when the police changed some of their tactics over the policing of parades. In many ways, in 1995 and 1996 I suspect some of the residents groups chanced upon this, when they realised that in fact, if they conducted concerted campaigns, these could also be very successful campaigns. Ironically, from their point of view—because many of them would see the police as not having changed over that period of time—I think this has taken place in part because there have been changes within the policing of parades.
  (Dr Jarman) I also think that, while there was an early expansion, a rapid florescence of protests in a number of locations, the vast majority of the protests were raised in 1995 and 1996. While there have been some minor additions in terms of small areas where the people have raised protests against parades subsequently, most of the protests date from the early years of this cycle, 1995-96, so it has not snowballed to the extent that some people predicted, that it would be the protesters charter, that all kinds of parades would be under attack. There are certain parades which are being challenged, but, realistically, most of those are defined in the very early stages of the cycle of disputes.


  142. Before I turn to Mr Pound, in the light of the evidence Mr Hamilton gave us a moment ago about the 1998-99 determinations, I realise this is an area where you might be doing, in a sense, academic research anyway, but if you felt able to give us a memorandum on how you felt the determinations had been reached, so that there is a rather greater analysis in support of the figures which you have quoted, that would be very helpful but I do not want in any way to prejudice any academic work you are separately doing.
  (Mr Hamilton) Certainly I can do something along those lines[2].

  Chairman: I am most grateful. Mr Pound.

Mr Pound

  143. Thank you, Chairman. I was interested in the points you made earlier on about the band parades—"band" not "banned". The data from the Parades Commission reveals that it is only really Nationalist and Loyalist parades (as distinct from any other forms of parades) which are required to be notified to the Commission. It is only these parades that require the Commission to exercise its statutory powers to impose conditions and route restrictions. Within these categories, as only a very small number of parades were affected, do you regard them—and I am choosing my words very carefully—not being an academic, but using the word "sectarian" parades, even within a tradition, as a monolith? Is it settled? Or does it make sense to draw a distinction between traditional and non-traditional parades, parades to and from church services, band parades, etc. Is there a difference there or should we be thinking of this as one block?
  (Dr Bryan) No, you should not be thinking of them as one block. They are enormously complicated, they differ widely in different areas, different band parades of different sorts. The nature of some of the parades has changed over periods of time. If you look again at the most high profile parade, the Drumcree church parade, the nature of that parade has varied. At various points they have had blood and thunder bands taking part in that parade—there were a couple of years in the early nineties when they had a blood and thunder band—now it is down to accordion bands. Some of the natures of the commemorations have changed over periods of times. The band parade varies very widely: parades in the city vary widely from parades in the country. I think that is one of the difficulties of dealing with this problem, they are really not monolithic at all. Even though they get described as the Loyal order parades, a visit to a Black parade in Fermanagh is going to be starkly different from an Orange parade in the centre of Belfast.

  144. Is there a consistency in the change? Are we talking about an evolving band or marching tradition or is this horses for courses, local changes for local circumstances, in your opinion?
  (Dr Bryan) There is an evolution in different areas. I mean, to give you one obvious example, the band tradition has changed remarkably over 30 or 40 years. It is a strange, if you like, contradiction, that on the one hand people from the Orange Order talk about this as a tradition, but when you talk to people in the Orange Order about that tradition they will tell you how much it changes and they will tell you about the sorts of bands you had in the 1960s compared to the 1970s and 1980s. So that, effectively, you could argue that during the environment of what gets called "the Troubles" the parades have become more assertive and the role of large blood and thunder bands, usually from working class areas, has grown within the parades, so the very nature and the look of some of the parades has changed quite distinctly in 20 or 30 years.

  145. I have finally found a point of common interest between myself and the Orange Order, in that we both constantly go on about bands of the Sixties!
  (Dr Jarman) Can I come back to the first point you made. While I agree that the body of parades is incredibly diverse, what we found, when we started responding to the disputes in the early 1990s/mid-1990s, was that, within the broader Catholic community, the people that we were talking to at that time did not see that diversity. They saw that a parade was a parade was a parade. It did not really matter whether it was a church parade or a main commemoration or a band parade, it was an Orange parade to them. There was, to some extent, extreme ignorance about what the parades were about and there was always the sense from a number of people in a number of areas, particularly out of Belfast, that it was a conspiracy of disinformation. There was a sense that there were always new parades coming up: "They've never had this parade before. We don't know what it is about. It has suddenly appeared on the streets, we are not aware of it, we don't know when it is coming." There was a sense of that about it, that there was an attempt to try and keep forcing parades down. I am sure that that was not the case, but there was a case where it was very difficult to find out when parades were taking place, what they were taking place for. Even for someone who was researching the issue and had good contacts within the Loyal Orders, it is very difficult to go to the Orange Order and find out what parades are taking place where and when, for instance—even today. So I think within the Nationalist community there was a sense that an Orange parade was an Orange parade, and I think probably that still survives to a great extent.

  Mr Pound: Thank you very much indeed.

Mr Hunter

  146. What are the differences, if any, between a parade of the Orange Order or the Ancient Order of Hibernians on the one hand and a march with banners or flags for a political objective or, indeed, in pursuit of industrial dispute. Should we regard them as similar or are there fundamental differences?
  (Dr Bryan) I would say they are fundamentally similar because it depends upon your perception and where you are looking from as to how you consider that event. I understand completely that people within the Orange Order or within the Ancient Order of Hibernians see their events as broadly religious or cultural or social events, but each of those organisations, particularly the Orange Order, clearly has major political dimensions to it, so that one could not possibly say it is unreasonable to someone who views it as a political event. One has to accept that these things tend to be in the eye of the beholder. I personally would consider them as all a part of the same sort of people expressing their identity both culturally and politically.

  147. Is that view shared by your colleagues?
  (Dr Jarman) Broadly, yes.
  (Mr Hamilton) Yes.

Mr Barnes

  148. You have just been explaining what I get up to on May Day because in the Labour movement it is sometimes felt that the further you walk round the streets the more you have actually done for the cause. That is maybe common in other areas. In your written submission you say, "It has been the opinion of many commentators that the behaviour of many loyal order parades has been unacceptable for some time," and you quote the autobiography of ex-Chief Constable Jack Hermon in connection with that. What sort of behaviour has been complained of?
  (Dr Jarman) Some of the behaviour referred to is related to participants in the parade, for instance, playing music at or around chapels or sensitive locations, striking up drums louder, playing particular sectarian songs or particularly contentious songs at sensitive locations, or passing other communities. Other aspects of behaviour would be claimed by the organisers to be the responsibility of the hangers-on: urinating in public, alcohol drinking, littering—that sort of generally anti-social behaviour that occurs when people are spectating at the parades. There was certainly a case in the early stages of the mid-1990s when people were arguing that the people who came to watch the parades were not the responsibility of the parade organisers; that they took responsibility for the behaviour of the people in the parade but not the responsibility of the people that came to watch the parade. But, again, the people who were witnessing the parades did not see that separation, so they were all one and the same thing basically.

  149. Is it at particular types of parade that that type of behaviour would emerge?
  (Dr Jarman) If you break the categories of parades down, there are certain types of parades which cause more disturbance, more disruption. Church parades, by and large, do not cause too much disturbance or disruption, although they have become the focus for opposition. The larger parade, then generally the larger the disruption. Certain parades that went past contentious areas, that went through areas inhabited by or seen as belonging to the other community, would have been seen as more contentious. Certain types of band parades, particularly ones which take over a town through an evening, where there is considerable alcohol consumption—something like the parade coming up on Saturday in Derry, the Lundy Day Parade, has had a fairly appalling reputation in terms of alcohol consumption and spin-off bad behaviour, and it has been one of the factors, I think, that has caused the parade to be moved a couple of weeks and attempts by the police to reduce the amount of consumption of alcohol.

  150. In what ways could these problems be tackled, other than conditions and determinations?
  (Mr Hamilton) I think one of the best ways in which the problem might be tackled is by placing a greater reliance on the Code of Conduct, because the end game, in which everybody I am sure would agree we are involved, is trying to foster a situation where organisers of parades can exercise self-control and that people's responsibilities are defined in a more concrete way. Looking at the way that these things have been tackled in the past, the code of conduct which the Parades Commission has issued has not been, in my view, relied upon as much as it could have been and there is a much greater potential for the Code of Conduct to be used as a basis of tightening up on poor behaviour by participants and ensuring that behaviour by hangers-on is also brought under control as well.

  151. Have there been similar problems to the ones you have described with Nationalist parades?
  (Dr Bryan) I am not aware to the same extent that there have been those kind of problems. There is not the same tradition of band parades within the Nationalist community—although they are becoming more common, they are still very small in number. I think the problems in terms of bad behaviour related to parades has largely been seen as one to do with the Loyalist community. Although there would be instances, say, in terms of, I suppose, some of the Republican parades in Belfast city centre, with the desecration of some of the Unionist symbols of Victoria, flags have been draped around, some of the slogans that have been displayed, some of the references that have been made on banners, rather than some of the direct behaviour. I am sure there are examples of public urination and so forth that take place in Nationalist parades. Can I go back to the point in the previous question, just to say that I think one of the cases being argued two or three years ago was for parade organisers to accept that they had the responsibility for the totality of the parade—not just the people walking but the people coming out to watch—and I think that has been taken on board to a greater or lesser extent. People are recognising that the parades attract watchers, supporters, and that they have a responsibility to the community that they come into to take cognisance of those. I think the example of what is going to be done on Saturday is a good case in point, where the organisers of the parade have acknowledged that it can be the supporters that cause as much problem or more problem than the marchers.

  Chairman: Before I come to Mr Grogan, I think Mr Clarke has a supplementary

Mr Clarke

  152. Thank you, Chairman. Coming back to your comment that the Nationalist community would say a parade is a parade is a parade, are they not correct, inasmuch as, from the evidence you have just given, what we have now determined is that the parade in itself is just the vehicle. What we are really talking about is the response to the behaviour of those on a parade and the response of those to it. As such, would you not accept that even within a rural setting an Orange Order parade could be extraordinarily offensive, it is just that there is nobody there to listen to it—inasmuch as the types of behaviour you have mentioned, sectarian signs and blood and thunder bands, could exist within a rural setting, the only reason why there would not be that much controversy is that there are less people around who would be offended.
  (Dr Jarman) It is possible that you could look at it from that perspective, but I do think the blood and thunder bands tend largely to be an urban phenomenon. If you look at some of the rural parades we have watched parades in County Fermanagh particularly and noted the absence of symbols. I think we saw two Union flags in the Black parade through Fermanagh, and they were carried by lodges whose own parades were being confronted, being challenged, and almost you could see a response to a protest: "We are going to make our point more firmly." I do not think the parades necessarily of themselves should cause offence. The vast majority of parades do not cause offence, have not historically caused offence, and I think there is a considerable degree of toleration and acceptance of the parades, acceptance of the disruption. You can see that when people cite events of the Thirties, Forties and Fifties—although there is a sense of rose-tinted glasses going about that, there is also an element of truth in it, and by and large people do not object to the parades, they object to some of the parades. That is certainly our experience of talking to people in some of the areas where residents groups are being set up. In the early days they were not objecting to all parades, they were objecting to one or two specific parades. When their objections were not acknowledged in any way as being legitimate, they tended to escalate. There was a sense of escalation about the protest.
  (Mr Hamilton) Can I agree with Neil on that point. And, I think, to sketch the converse of the situation that you outlined, where there was a parade but nobody there to object to it, as Neil said there are situations in rural communities where parades take place and they are not considered to be offensive. Residents in many areas have made the distinction between church parades and parades which do not foment the kind of disorder or disruption that some band parades, for example, might. I think the Commission has been keen to take that on board as well and in some instances actually has gone as far as saying that to protest against such a small church parade would be extremely unreasonable.

Mr Grogan

  153. We have received evidence critical of the consistency of the Commission and its ability to follow its own rules. What assessment have you made of the consistency of Parades Commission determinations and have you any evidence to suggest that the Commission deviates materially from its own procedural rules?
  (Mr Hamilton) There are a number of points to be made about consistency, I think. The first is that if you are looking for purist consistency, then you probably will not find it. The reason for that is that the different factors in section 8(6) of the legislation will mean different things in different situations. What may ostensibly be similar or analogous considerations will often in actual fact reflect very different local dynamics and will have different implications or consequences for the two areas that are being compared. If you take disruption, for example, disruption can be caused for any number of reasons—the timing of the parade, its duration, its route, the numbers taking part, the policing operation which is deemed necessary—and it can affect both domestic and commercial lives to varying degrees, and yet this is all lumped under the term disruption of the life of the community. If you take a hypothetical scenario, if you think of two different towns where the Commission in both states there is a potential for disorder, yet in one town imposes no conditions on the parade and in the other town imposes route restrictions on the parade, it may be that assurances given by the parade organiser in the first town persuaded the Commission that the potential for disorder had been offset to a degree, or that the Commission on the advice of the police, say, considered that in the second town there was the potential for disorder to spread more widely across Northern Ireland, or, indeed, that in the second town there was an obvious alternative route which would effectively minimise the risk of disorder, and the Commission has to make a qualitative assessment on those bare facts. Past experience might, for example, lead the Commission to conclude that the stewarding at a band parade in Downpatrick is less likely to be as effective as the marshalling of the Apprentice Boys parade in Londonderry, and the impact of disorder would be more in some areas than in others. One of the other points to be made is that consideration of the consistency of the application of the statutory factors cannot be done by isolating the Commission's consideration of individual criteria in any single determination. Compliance with the Code of Conduct may appear to be the main factor in persuading the Commission not to impose route restrictions on a parade in West Belfast or Crumlin or Ballycastle, but in each of those cases, even though compliance with the Code of Conduct may be the overriding consideration, it is still being balanced against the consideration of the potential for disorder and disruption and the impact on community relations, and whether or not it is a traditional parade, and, therefore, in apparent contrast, but not, I would argue, inconsistently, compliance with the Code of Conduct at a parade in Newtownhamilton might not attract sufficient weight to outweigh the consideration of the other statutory factors and that will result in a different outcome where in one location there is a route restriction and in another there is not. That touches on the next point, that the significance of the restrictions themselves will greatly vary. A route restriction can mean anything from directing that a parade should proceed one way around the top of a traffic island at the top of Edward Street in Lurgan, to saying that a parade cannot go down the Garvaghy Road or cannot go past the 30 mile an hour speed limits in Dunloy. This final point picks up on a point that we made earlier and a point that was raised by the evidence given by Mr Holland. It was put to Mr Holland that public order is public order in Kilkeel, in Belfast, and in London. I would respectfully disagree with that assertion because, as some would say, order, like beauty, exists in the eye of the beholder, and competing definitions of public order are in reality functions of power relations in different communities, and in each community, in each town, in each city there will be an underlying community equilibrium which is implicitly different. Disorder in Portadown is not the same as disorder in Rosslea. So, in conclusion, I am not saying that the Commission's determinations have been perfect, but what I am saying is that from examining the determinations in 1998 and 1999 and that is as far as I have gone, I have not looked at the 2000 ones and therefore not the new Commission, but inconsistency on the whole is not a criticism that I would support.

Mr Thompson

  154. Good morning, gentlemen. What in your view are the alternatives to a body such as the Parades Commission regulating parades? Could we not revert to responsibility going to the police, given the fact that the Human Rights Act has now come into force, and would there not always be redress to the judiciary in relation to their decisions as well as the Parades Commission?
  (Dr Bryan) I think that move would be disastrous for the police. I think it puts them in a position in which they should not be placed. I think dealing with these issues is the responsibility of the judiciary and it is also the responsibility of the political process and you are asking the police officers to make decisions that it is not reasonable for them to make. My quick answer would be: giving it back to the police would be about the worst decision that could be made. I think one can look around the world and look for alternative ways of going about this situation. You could look at the situation in Scotland, where it becomes the role of the local authority to start making these decisions, and that involves and brings in local councillors to try to deal with these issues and if people do not like the decisions that are made they could then take them to court. And the importance of that is that that creates a sense of responsibility within the communities that are dealing with this situation. A similar sort of structure is utilised in South Africa—although I have to say we have yet to see evidence of it either being successful or not successful in South Africa, where there were still considerable problems. Or one could look to see whether the Parades Commission should take on a more judicial role or tribunal role than it has at present. But I personally think it would be putting extreme pressure on the police and asking the police to make decisions that they really should not be being asked to make. It should be the political and judicial processes which are dealing with those sorts of problems.

  155. Do the police not deal with them in other parts of the United Kingdom, other than in Scotland?
  (Dr Bryan) They do not deal with them in Scotland and under the Crime and Disorder Act there has been a growing sense of responsibility given to authorities to start dealing with what is called public safety—and I have to say that you will find police officers in England who would really rather that alternatives were found. If I could give you an example, the New Year's Eve celebrations at Trafalgar Square for years just took place, people just turned up, and the responsibility for dealing with this was left to the police and I know—the Metropolitan Police have said this to me—that they thought it was an abrogation of responsibility by the local authority there that they were left to pick up the pieces. A lot of these complicated events are not things that police officers alone can be asked to deal with. It is important that both the local authorities take full responsibility for what is taking place and that the judicial processes are brought in. Using the police to make decisions has been shown not to work. The Parades Commission has only been around for two years—this is the third legal year of determinations. The police were making decisions in 1996 which proved to be the most disastrous year in terms of this issue.

  156. Is the Parades Commission's practice of viewing parades as individual events a strength or a weakness? Might it be easier to find agreement if an overall package was negotiated covering either periods of time or a range of locations?
  (Dr Jarman) We were involved in some of the discussions prior to the setting up of the Parades Commission and the drafting of the legislation. At that time we were in favour of the possibility of any such body taking a bigger view, not just of parades in one location but also of parades across Northern Ireland. Personally, I think that would be a beneficial move. I think at the time it was viewed as legally unsound and not able to be sustained under the legislative process. It would probably help a sense of the way in which the Loyal Orders feel they are being attacked and all their parades are being challenged, if you could get to a stage of saying, "We are looking at the full season here, what is reasonable down the Ormeau Road?" for example. "At the moment it is one parade at a time coming along—no resolution. OK, we stop that one. Next one?" and then" Next one? Next one?" If you took an overview and said, "What is reasonable here?"—coming from the benchmark of: "We have stopped all the parades" and moving to a position—which some people have suggested—where some parades go down this area—you could maybe start to put that programme in place. But our understanding was that legally it was not possible to do that.

Mr Robinson

  157. Thank you, Chairman. Earlier you said that you did not take the view that the opposition had been generated and was orchestrated, and that effectively there was discontent there. While there may well have been discontent and certainly no affinity with the people who were on parade, is it not the fact that Mr Adams has publicly indicated that these things did not happen overnight, they had been working on them for several years, and was taking what in his terms there might have been considered to be credit for orchestrating the opposition to the parades.
  (Dr Bryan) I find this, when it is thrown up, a very odd matter, because of course there are times when Unionists will believe nothing that Gerry Adams says and when he says something that seems to fit in with your argument you then believe what he says. Gerry Adams is a politician, he was talking in particular circumstances when I suspect that it served him very well to appear to be taking credit for what was taking place. I am not saying that it is without orchestration—clearly it is a political movement which has involved Sinn Fein, it has also involved communities themselves coming together and making decisions. However, what I am suggesting is that it is a whole combination of factors that have come together, and simply to see what has taken place as somebody very cleverly in Sinn Fein sitting down and saying, "Here's the way we are going to manoeuvre things over the next five years" I do not personally buy in to those sort of big conspiracy stories. I do not think it works as simply as that.

  158. The former part of your answer was very political. I asked you a specific question; I did not ask you for your perception on how Loyalists or Unionists would view Mr Adams. In fact, Unionists would not regard Mr Adams as being a liar. They may regard him as many other things, they may not agree with his views on the matter but that would not say that they would not accept what he said as being his view of the truth. The reality is that it is his workers on the ground who are being seen as orchestrating the opposition and therefore I think people would be justified in accepting his view that the Sinn Fein/IRA organisation have been managing the situation in those areas.
  (Dr Bryan) I am simply saying that I do not see it is as simple as that. Using one quote from one politician in one particular circumstance to underpin a whole argument about complex communities in complex situations simply to me destroys the very complexity of what is taking place. My understanding is that there are some areas where the residents groups developed quite independently of residents groups developing in other areas, and they did so because this was an issue within certain sections of the Catholic community. That has to be dealt with and understood, and, by simply concentrating on it as a Sinn Fein conspiracy, means that I do not think one looks at the feelings and attitudes within that community. I am not denying that there is clear political involvement in what has taken place—there clearly is.

  159. And I think to ignore it also is rather simplistic as well. I wonder if you could perhaps look at the wider issue—and I grant that I look at this from a Unionist perspective. Already we have had some of the statistics on a number of parades indicated by other members who have asked questions, and there seems to be relatively few of those parades that might be described as being intractable, of which obviously Drumcree would be the best known. But in those cases that are regarded as being the most difficult, it is usually the ones where there is the greatest degree of opposition, where the opposition is to a parade of any kind at any time and it is absolute. Is there not a greater difficulty when the Parades Commission invariably go with the opposition to a parade—no doubt from their point of view for very pragmatic reasons. What likelihood is there then of parade organisers being involved in mediation, when they recognise that on every occasion the upper hand is given to those who object, providing they can give the indication that there will be some kind of community upheaval unless the Parades Commission give into their point of view.
  (Dr Jarman) Can I answer that partly in conjunction with the previous question, to say that, while the Republican movement, I think, have been very astute in exploiting the parade dispute issue—they have taken a very imaginative approach tactically, in astute terms tactically—similarly I think the Loyal Orders have walked up cul-de-sacs time and time again on this issue and have not been astute tactically in seeing the bigger picture and seeing how to get through it. I think, in terms of the engagement of the Parades Commission, to which you are referring in this item, is one of those issues. I think by refusing to engage with the Commission, by refusing to seek to cut deals—effectively to look at the bigger picture, as Mr Thompson asked about it previously, in terms of trying to address the totality of parades in an area—that the Loyal Orders have, in effect, shot themselves in the foot time and time again. If ever you did see that there were two choices, for a positive tactic or a negative tactic to be taken, I think the Loyalists by and large have taken the negative tactic and taken the worst view, the worst approach they possibly could. If they were prepared to grasp the situation and confront the residents groups, they would find themselves in a much stronger position. I think the failure to take up the challenge and to refuse to meet and to engage has given the residents groups greater opportunity to move the issue further into their court than they might have done. I think you cannot fail to recognise that
  (Mr Hamilton) If I could just add to that as well, first of all I do not think it was fair to say that the Parades Commission have invariably sided with the opposition. But, even to go back to the previous question, I would agree with what Dominic said in that there is certainly a degree of orchestration, and nobody is trying to deny that, while at the same time not confusing that with genuine opposition in some areas. But I think that does mask the real question—and Mr Robinson you have hit upon the question of whether disorder as a threat should effectively veto the right to march. Consideration of the threat of public disorder, as the Commission has considered it, has not really distinguished between the source of disorder, and in many cases it is fair to say that the threat of disorder from a residents group has ultimately led to a parade being re-routed or other conditions being imposed upon it. I think that if you want to get away from the idea of a law-breakers charter—which is a criticism which was also levelled at the 1987 Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order—the first thing that, as Neil said, would play into the Orange Order's favour would be to engage with the residents and I think that would place them in a much stronger position. Secondly, as I have already suggested, it would be to place greater reliance on the Code of Conduct, because that in itself places the responsibility for ensuring that disorder does not happen with the organiser. I would also say that the threat of disorder has not been the overriding factor which has influenced the Commission. The threat of disorder has only been a factor pertinent to the Commission's decision in 63 per cent and 61 per cent of its determinations in 1998 and 1999.

2   Editorial Footnote: See Ev p 48. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 19 July 2001