Examination of Witnesses (Questions 400
WEDNESDAY 31 JANUARY 2001
400. On that issue, I cannot see any way of
getting to that point, if I can be fairly blunt on it. What is
the pedigree of the Authorised Officers? Is there sufficient diversity
amongst their ranks?
(Mr McAllister) We have been very careful to ensure
that they are a team of male and female, Catholic and Protestants
and also people who in their family backgrounds would identify
with the parading tradition. In terms of their pedigree, to use
that term, we would not ever envisage them being highly "professional"
full time mediators. We think that they are more of value as citizens
with concern and a degree of skill and competence sufficient to
do their task.
401. Let me hone it down a little further. Whether
they are male, female, Protestant or Catholic perhaps does not
get right down to it. The problem which you have identified is
one of a lack of trust between the marching orders and the Parades
Commission among those who act on their behalf. Are there people
within the ranks of the Authorised Officers that the Loyal Orders
could identify with? That goes beyond the fact that they may be
(Mr Campbell) How do you understand "identify
402. I am wondering how diverse are they? Are
there people who might be members of these Orders amongst the
(Mr Campbell) There are people on the Authorised Officers
team who have family members who have connections to the Orders,
some of them.
(Mr McAllister) But none who is a member.
(Mr Campbell) None who is an active member.
403. Is that prohibited?
(Mr Campbell) No, it is not prohibited at all.
(Mr McAllister) But you would appreciate, Mr Robinson,
that no Orangeman for instance would be much inclined to take
up a paid position with the Parades Commission.
404. Let us look at the issue. Can you think
of any government body that has been set up to deal with a dispute
that does not have the confidence of the disputing parties? How
can it work? It cannot work. Surely the most fundamental issue
is how to address that, and that means a very basic change in
the whole structure of the way the Parades Commission was set
up, or we are going to have the continued problem of the stand-off
between the Parades Commission and those that they are dealing
(Mr Campbell) The biggest challenge for the parading
tradition is not to engage with the Parades Commission. It is
actually to engage with those who oppose the parades in certain
localities, and if they did that and began to work at agreement
on that then the Parades Commission in a sense would not have
to be involved at all and the Loyal Orders' engagement with the
Commission would become irrelevant.
(Mr McAllister) I would want also to respond to what
you said by agreeing with you that the confidence deficit is a
major inhibition to the effectiveness of the Parades Commission.
However, I was saying to Mr Hunter that historically the Commission
has been seen by many Orange brethren as a body set up without
their good intent in mind. That is how it is perceived by them.
I am not stating that as a fact but rather that that perception
is reality; that is a broadly held view, as you would know, within
the parading tradition. The Parades Commission has to be imaginative
in how it addresses that. I come back to another point I made
in my submission where I identified four possible options for
administering this problem. In my view a Parades Commission is
the least worst option, so it is therefore a body that people
will not naturally like but it is one that I believe in time they
will come to take seriously and engage with because it is there.
405. But at least they engage with the police.
(Mr McAllister) Yes. People do not always like police
officers or families dealing with social workers do not always
like their job either.
406. The Orangemen have not had a difficulty
in talking to police officers.
(Mr McAllister) That is right.
407. So we now have a body that Nationalists
can quite happily sit with but the marching orders cannot.
(Mr McAllister) You are quite right; that is a huge
problem. However, I have stated in my paper that in my view the
police are not best suited to administer this problem or to resolve
it. All that the police can do is police the parades problem.
Its resolution will require engagement between those who are in
opposition to each other, and a body of citizens who are publicly
identifiable and are working to a set of publicly identified criteria,
for me is the least worst option in this matter. I realise that
there is a huge enduring confidence deficit. I believe however
that in the fullness of time the parading tradition will come
to identify the potential of the Parades Commission as a civic
body that is not actually against the existence of parades. At
the end of the day if you were to ask the Parades Commission,
"Do you want to abolish the parading tradition in Northern
Ireland?", it is on record as saying no; it wants to establish
a firmer future for the parading tradition in our society and
that is why I have also said in my report that it is important
for the Parades Commission to make that point more clearly than
it has done so far to the parading tradition in particular.
408. Do you think it might help the engagement
that you are craving if the residents' organisations were not
putting forward convicted terrorists as representatives?
(Mr McAllister) Again it is not the function of a
mediator to form a judgment about who emerges on either side of
a dispute. I would want to say as well that we do not actually
"crave" outcomes. In your absence earlier I was trying
to make the point that it is our perspective on this problem and
many other aspects of division in Northern Ireland that we are
talking about a cross-generational division and that many of the
problems that you and we are working at in Northern Ireland we
will not live to see settled. Many aspects of our division will
take generations to sort out. In our view it is very important
for our integrity that we do not chase this problem, making it
move quicker than it is able to go. People will find ways to address
each other when they are ready to do so.
409. I do not think I was putting words in your
mouth, Mr McAllister, but three times during just my questions
you and Mr Campbell were proffering the view that engagement was
the way forward.
(Mr McAllister) Absolutely.
410. That is why I was saying that you were
craving that particular way forward. I wonder if I could look
at the issue of your recommendation for some form of education,
encouraging discussions, etc. Do you think that is going to resolve
any of the issues at the heart of this?
(Mr McAllister) Again it comes back to a point I made
to Mr Clarke earlier. The activity of mediative actors in a conflict
situation is not sufficient in itself to resolve anything. It
simply makes a contribution to a range of activities that go on
naturally in conflict that bring it to fruition. However, the
role of that part of work for which we feel a responsibility,
the activity of mediation, is to assist communication, improve
understandings, support creative thinking, explore accommodations
and, if people are ready to and want to, assist them to reach
agreement. But it all the time puts the onus (and the power in
a sense) in a conflict on the parties rather than take it on to
411. Can I put to you the conundrum that I have
when I listen to your position? The Mediation NetworkI
rather imagine if you were sent to mediate and somebody said,
"I do not want anything to do with you. We do not want to
talk to you. We do not trust you. We do not like you. We do not
believe you should be here", I guarantee you would say, "Look:
we are not able to mediate in these circumstances." You do
not seem to be recognising that the Parades Commission gets exactly
that kind of reaction from the Loyal Orders but you seem to be
quite content that it should go round there until they eventually
thole it, to use the Ulster expression. You do not seem
to see that it is not working, it cannot work with the major players
in this and therefore we need to restructure; we need to have
a fundamental change in the way we address this issue.
(Mr McAllister) Mr Robinson, I have already tried
to express a degree of acknowledgement about the validity of what
you are saying here about the confidence deficit, about the historically
negative relationship that is there between the parading Orders
and the Commission, accept all those as realities. They are challenges
for the Parades Commission. I am simply saying that I do not know
of any better way to manage this problem than to have a body of
citizens get to know a problem, be committed to it and seek to
establish a firmer foundation in our society for the parading
tradition than it has ever had. For me they are honourable civic
aspirations which I cannot imagine anyone in the parading Orders
having a difficulty with. I think that the difficulties are around
suspicion about the agenda that was given to this Commission.
It is seen as a body that is there to close down parades. Similarly,
it is at times viewed with suspicion by people on the Nationalist
side. It is very often viewed as a body that is not impervious
to political influence and intervention or indeed it is not always
seen by Nationalists as a body that will be prepared to take a
different line from police concerns, for instance. There are difficulties
on all sides in Northern Ireland around the idea of the Parades
Commission. I have simply set out in my memorandum here three
alternatives, none of which I believe would be as viable as this.
In my view we have to take a long view of the parades dispute
and of the work of mediation and recognise that a body of citizens
administering a problem is going to make mistakes, is not necessarily
going to perform all its functions well. I do accept that there
is a need for improvement on those and I have made out the need
for greater clarity around the three core functions, but again
this is a problem that will take a long time to move on.
412. You have put forward a number of interesting
ideas about how the work of the Commission might develop. Can
I ask the low politician's question: to what extent would this
require additional funding? Is it possible to give us a back of
the envelope indication of the additional funding requirements
for your expenditure?
(Mr McAllister) There are significant funding difficulties,
I have to say. For instance, over the past year our work within
Newry and Mourne Council has not been funded. There is not funding
there for it. There is a need for non-Parades Commission activity
in the parades conflict because that would certainly make it a
lot easier to uphold the integrity of mediation at times. As such
there is no fund set aside in the public purse for that kind of
activity. I do not have figures for it, I am afraid.
413. But additional funding would be an essential
concomitant with any development of the Commission's work?
(Mr McAllister) Yes.
414. I appreciate what you said earlier on about
an element of self-generated funding, but that would always be
a marginal component?
(Mr McAllister) Yes. If the Commission is to create
more opportunities for people with an interest in parades to come
together, whether they are church people or indeed people on the
ground, there are always costs with these. These events really
have not been happening up until now for various good reasons,
but when they do start to happen, as I believe they will eventually,
then obviously costs will increase.
415. Does the Mediation Network involve itself
in a wider role beyond purely conflict which arises without parading
and advising the Parades Commission?
(Mr McAllister) Yes, Mr Beggs. As was said in our
areas of work at the start of the session, that was really a reference
to other types of mediation that we are engaged in. Briefly, we
have been working at prisons issues over the years. We have been
working at inter-neighbourhood conflict. We have been working
also in assisting political dialogue between individuals across
the parties. Obviously there is a degree of discretion involved
in our work. Suffice it to say that across Northern Ireland society
in various fields we have been engaged in mediation work since
416. I have one tidying up question. Do you
believe that the number of Authorised Officers is sufficient?
(Mr Campbell) Yes. I think 12 Authorised Officers
deployed in pairs around the Province is sufficient, but I think
that the role we spoke of earlier for monitoring parades, not
just contentious parades but also non-contentious parades, as
a way of providing figures and education for the public needs
to be expanded so there would be a place for a monitor-type role
which we started last year with the Commission and which I think
they want to expand on.
417. We have covered a lot of ground during
the course of the examination and you have covered a lot of ground
too in response, which will certainly bear study in terms of the
transcript. It may be that we want to come back with supplementary
questions, as I said at the beginning, but in the meantime we
are extremely grateful for the patience and diligence you have
given to the questions.
(Mr McAllister) Thank you for your interest.