Examination of Witnesses (Questions 474
TUESDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2001
474. We do apologise for having kept you waiting,
we did slightly overrun. We then paused in order to allow the
shorthandwriter to recover from writer's cramp. I am afraid human
weakness then took over. We do apologise to you. You are very
welcome. Thank you very much, indeed, for coming to give evidence.
Thank you also for the memorandum you sent to us in advance. If
you have ever read one of our transcripts before, you will know
that I always say at the start that we will endeavour to make
the questions follow a logical order but they may come from different
quarters of the room. Secondly, if you want to gloss any of the
answers you have given, either orally today or in writing afterwards
we would be entirely content with that. We hope you understand
if we want to ask a supplementary question in writing after the
event, because after the reading the transcript there is something
we are not clear about, you will understand that and follow it
up in that manner. You are most welcome. I do not know if there
is anything you would like to say to us before your obvious introduction
and before we start asking you questions.
(Mr Dawson) Chairman, I would like to
express our appreciation to the Committee for inviting us to meet
with you today to take your questions. On my right is Mr David
Burrows, the Deputy District Master for the Portadown District
and on my left is Mr Richard Monteith, who is our legal representative
and who will probably be answering the majority of the questions.
I am Nigel Dawson, District Secretary, Portadown District. Richard
will be making an opening comment.
(Mr Monteith) Thank you very much Chairman, and the
Committee, you have the submissions from Portadown. We will just
highlight very briefly three matters arising from that. First
of all, in 1999 there was considerable work done on a series of
processes entered into by Portadown coming up to the July parade
in 1999, culminating, as I am sure the Committee will be aware,
with meetings with the Prime Minister, Jonothan Powell and David
Trimble. As a result of that in July 1999 the Prime Minister had
said to Portadown, "Is there anything else you can do for
us?" There was, as you are all aware: on the appropriate
Sunday the Portadown District officers went down to the line at
Drumcree and handed in a letter of protest and then left Drumcree.
That was the quietest summer in recent years. That was done at
considerable risk to the officers in the Portadown District. We
all met the Prime Minister shortly after that. He was, I am quite
sure, appreciative of the efforts we made at that time, that was
despite the determination of the Parades Commission in 1999. We
were led to believe, if not in August, certainly in September,
there would an appropriate parade from Drumcree Parish Church
down to Carleton Street by the Garvaghy Road. When that did not
materialise we once again entered into a series of processes under
the chairmanship of either Mr Howarth or Mr Ingram. It was in
those engagements between myself, David Campbell and David McNarry
directly with the residents that those meetings ended when the
residents walked out. All of those matters of engagement were
the background to the determinations made by the Commission in
July 2000. We all certainly feel that our efforts, not only before
1999 but particularly in 1999, right through to July 2000 were
completely unrecognised and completely unrewarded. In July 2000
the Parades Commission were really given three bites of the one
cherry. Portadown put in an application for the Sunday before
the normal Drumcree Sunday, which would have taken matters a little
away from the sensitive time of 12 July. The Commission decided
that was not an appropriate Sunday. The second chance was when
they had a chance to allow the parade on the second Sunday in
July. The third bite of the cherry was when we applied for a re-determination.
In support of that re-determination we very publicly exhibited
our grievance within the newsletterI am sure the Committee
has read thatwith the pledges that were in that and particularly
the commitment of the Portadown District to engage in a civic
forum, if invited, with anybody else who was in the civic forum.
That came to nothing. Then we have, right up to the minute, the
challenge from the Dunloy Group, which was dealt with by the Court
of Appeal, and I am sure the Committee has that judgment. Unfortunately
that judgment has rather secured the view that the Parades Commission
has given a rioter's charter to those who are opposed to properly
constituted, properly marshalled and legitimate parades. Dealing
particularly with Drumcree, it is a parade from morning worship.
It is a parade that when it last took place it did so in complete
silence, no bands, no music, no shows of flags, banners of emblems
of any description. Therefore, if there is now a threat of disorder,
that is enough to prevent any legitimate parade taking place.
That, we respectfully say, is an entirely inappropriate way to
govern parades in this or any other jurisdiction. Thank you.
475. Thank you very much, indeed, for that introductory
statement. Let me start by asking you a ground clearing factual
question, how many parades has the Lodge sought to promote in
the last three years?
(Mr Dawson) The Portadown District under normal circumstances
are only responsible for five parades in the course of a year.
However, the Committee will be aware that since we were prevented
from returning home from morning worship from Drumcree Parish
Church, the District has each and every Sunday from that date
applied, seeking permission to parade in order that the District
may leave Drumcree and return back to our Lodge in the town centre,
so there would be an additional 50 parades per year. All of those
have received a negative adjudication.
476. I realise that in asking my next question
I may be entering an arithmetical thickethow many in the
normal course of events would be traditional parades and how many
have been related to the Drumcree dispute respectively?
(Mr Dawson) All of Portadown District parades are
traditional. We have had no new parades, where we just simply
decide that we would walk somewhere and put an application in.
In the course of the year we have a mini 12th parade in June,
which is our first parade; then we have two church services, with
one to Seagoe church, which are obviously on Sundays; then we
have the normal 12 July annual county demonstration and then,
of course, the Drumcree parade. Obviously those are all traditional
and we would still maintain that our application for each and
every Sunday is traditional as well because we have not returned
home from that parade in 1998.
Chairman: Thank you very much for that and for
proving my arithmetical thicket.
477. In your memorandum you suggest that the
Parades Commission has less practical knowledge when it comes
to deciding on particular parades than the police. Can you expand
on this? What has led you to believe this is the situation?
(Mr Monteith) In terms of practical knowledge, the
police, who are based obviously in Portadown and the surrounding
area, would originally have dealt with the same people, the same
parades, the same set of circumstances year after year. Officers
may come and go but there was always continuity amongst them at
some level, so therefore there would have been a build up in the
relationship between the personalities involved, both in the police
and in the District. With regard to the Parades Commission, as
far as we can tell, they base their findings on, first of all,
anyone who wants to come and speak to them and present whatever
point of view they want and, secondly, their Authorised Officers
and, thirdly, reports from the police. We, like everyone else,
are not privy to what anyone else tells the Parades Commission.
Certainly in dealings I had in Lurgan with Authorised Officers
I can only work out that whatever they were told by myself and
the parade organiser was either not relayed to the Parades Commission
or was incorrectly relayed to the Parades Commission. The written
determination we saw had factual inaccuracies in it. If the Parades
Commission are basing their information on largely objectors and,
secondly, those Authorised Officers who supply them with information
there is no means of checking that information and it is open,
really, to what anyone wants to tell them. They have no feel for
the situation. Dealing with Drumcree, for instance, there are
none of them who are Portadown people and their sources of information
are somewhat removed.
478. Can you remind the Committee of the current
position as far as engagement with the Commission is concerned?
(Mr Monteith) We are all bound by Grand Lodge rules.
The only time there can be any engagement would be when someone
like myself would be challenging a decision past by the Parades
Commission. I personally met the old Commission and the current
Commission several times, in addition to that, privately as well
as publicly. The only time there is any engagement is if it is
to challenge a decision, and that would be by a legal person like
479. Good afternoon. You are quite critical
in your memorandum about the Commission and its record in carrying
out its duties to promote mediation, and so on. What evidence
would you have of that, and as a supplementary, is it not hard
to promote mediation if you will not talk directly to them? Why
do you think the Apprentice Boys adopt a slightly different attitude?
(Mr Monteith) I will try and deal with those in order.
First of all, mediation, there simply has not been any attempt
whatsoever to facilitate mediation by the Parades Commission at
Portadown. That is just a fact. In the attempt at mediation that
has been done recently by Brian Currin from South Africaand
Mr Currin prides himself on his complete independence from all
bodies, particularly the Parades Commissionthat is not
a Parades Commission effort to promote or facilitate mediation.
With regard to your second point, we have continually engaged
with and met everyone in different ways. There is a long history
of how the Portadown District officers, county officers and Grand
Lodge officers have met virtually everyone in the community, either
directly or indirectly. There has been engagement through Adam
Ingram's process, when in a room such as this there was a direct
engagement between myself, two others and the residents. It always
comes down to the same position, that the residents have absolutely
no interest in engaging in a position other than that there shall
be no Orange feet on the Garvaghy Road. They adopt that position
because they are secure in the veto that has been provided to
them by the Parades Commission. The Commission deny they have
such a veto but in reality it exists. If you take the example
of, for instance, trade union management negotiations, you have
a situation where both parties know what their bottom line is,
both parties know what they would like to achieve and both parties
have something they can give and something they would like to
take. In this particular situation it is quite clear that where
there is a threat of disorder and it is common cause that that
threat of disorder is not from the Portadown District, but where
there is a threat of disorder that is the reason why there is
no parade. As long as that threat of disorder is maintained the
residents do not have to do anything. They simply say, "No
Parade". Portadown District has done everything and has continued
to try to do everything it possibly can to achieve a parade. The
only thing they want to achieve is a parade in peace, in dignity
back to Carleton Street. That is simply not achievable because
of the threat of disorder. The mediation network accepted last
year that in the Portadown situation mediation was not an option.
It cannot work because there are effectively poor and worsening
relations between the community in Portadown. They will not improve
as long at Drumcree is not resolved. It is the chicken and the
egg. If you have a parade subject to the conditions that the residents
of Portadown set out in 2000 you would have the possibility of
a changed atmosphere in Portadown, but the Commission rejected
that once again. By rejecting that there is really nothing further
that Portadown can offer. I think Mr CurrinI caught him
very briefly on the radio this afternoonfeels there is
nothing further that can be achieved by him as an independent
mediator. I hope that deals with your points, Mr Grogan.