Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 480 - 499)



  480. Just the point about the Apprentice Boys, why would they take a different view?
  (Mr Dawson) You are quite right in saying that the Apprentice Boys are a separate organisation to that of the Orange Institution. I would contend that the Apprentice Boys of the Ormeau Road would say that the talks in Londonderry have failed them to get their parade.

  481. What about the Authorised Officers? Do you think they have any value at all? What is your view of Authorised Officers?
  (Mr Monteith) I have referred both in own personal submission to the Committee and briefly in the opening to that. They are very pleasant people to meet and I am sure they are trying to do something. The personal experience I have had with them has not encouraged me. Again, it boils down to the fact that you have absolutely no idea as to what they are relating. They have no opportunity in the Drumcree situation for achieving anything whatsoever.

Mr Barnes

  482. In the submission from Mr Dawson, he says that the Parades Commission continues to urge the District Lodge to meet with them to explain our case. Prior to the Commission taking over responsibility, members of the Portadown District did meet with the then Chairman, Alastair Green, to put the case to them, this submission has never been recognised by the Commission. What does it mean to say that it has not been recognised? It has not been received by them, it was not even acknowledged or is it that there was no response made to what was put to them?
  (Mr Dawson) It was actually an oral presentation and I was one of the delegation of the Portadown District and County Armagh officers who met Alastair Graham and members of the Commission at that time. It was received, however you will not find any determination or adjudication that they have issued. They have said they are aware of the case, but to the contrary they have turned around and said they are not aware of the circumstances and they continually highlight the fact that Portadown District have failed and the members of the Orange Institution do not recognise they failed to meet the Commission. In that context I said that they never recognised that several of us have been in a room with them, explaining the history of the Portadown District, our position within the Grand Lodge, the special case the Drumcree people have, as being one of the oldest church parades in the history of the institution, so it was in that context they have in all of the determinations refused to acknowledge that that meeting ever took place and they were aware of different background information to Drumcree.

  483. Obviously you have looked to the highest with regards to the work of the Commission. One thing that might be said about a possible role that you could be engaged in was that of trying to create some public understanding about what the issues were involved in the public processions. Do you feel that the Commission has in any way being able to achieve that or is the response as negative as the things you said so far about them?
  (Mr Dawson) The responses are negative. As has been previously stated, Richard has met the Commission in a variety of capacities and the Commission is well aware of the history of this parade, what it entails and the background to it. It is not correct for them to be saying that we have to meet them in order for them to know our case. Our case has been put to them adequately on several occasions and they still refuse to acknowledge that.

  484. Obviously public understanding will relate mainly to Northern Ireland, but I think there are some difficulties in the British public understanding what is occurring and why there is such strong feelings involved. To them it might seem that the suggestion that a parade should be rerouted on one of its legs might create an injustice but it is like a rather minor change because the operation could still take place. What would you say to them in order to get an understanding as to the significance you see in the parade continuing on its traditional route?
  (Mr Dawson) First of all, we visited several constituencies in England and Scotland. We have a Grand Lodge in England and Scotland and our associated members are well aware of the situation. They would be sympathetic. They take the point of view that they would not like a non-elected, non-accountable body telling them when and where they cannot parade; it is left to the local authorities and to the police in their constituency. They are as puzzled by it as we are. There has been no difficulty in getting that message across to them. With regard to the rerouting, it is quite unacceptable that as long as you get it it does not really matter what route you take. I suspect that if a major parade in England which had a traditional history was rerouted because somebody simply objected to it, there would be a better understanding from the people there as to what we are living with in Northern Ireland.

  485. I am thinking more of the general public who are picking material up from the television who are not used to many parades, or if they are used to parades they are used to parades which are clearly of a political nature, like May Day parades, and not to what are seen as traditional cultural parades. I was just wondering how that feeling that you have about the significance and importance of the parade is something that you could get through to people who do not have the same background and seriousness that you have.
  (Mr Monteith) The Portadown District always endeavours to use whatever media is open to them to get their message across. We are sitting over here in Northern Ireland and to get any more than 30 seconds of prime time television on ITN or BBC across the water is very difficult. It is very difficult for the people on the other side of the pond to see it. History will dictate that in Northern Ireland it is only bad news that travels cross the water and it is very, very difficult to get good news. The kind of organisation that we are and the work that we do in Northern Ireland, it is very difficult because people, quite frankly, in the media are not interested in spreading good news, it is only when something goes wrong. We would take every opportunity that is open to us to put our message across. It is difficult because of the media problem.

Mr Beggs

  486. What impact do you expect the coming into force of the Human Rights Act to have on the decisions on parades? Does the Portadown Lodge envisage testing Commission decisions in the courts on the basis of the coming into effect of the new legislation?
  (Mr Monteith) I think the answer lies in the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Mr Beggs, and the matter of an application by David Alexander Tweed for leave to apply for judicial review. The judgment of the Lord Chief Justice was handed down before Christmas. I have already touched upon this, if I can expand on it briefly. I think the Committee, if you have not already done so, should obtain a copy of this. That was a short judgment of only some nine pages. Effectively it deals with the parade in Dunloy to and from a church service. The conclusion is this, "Where there is a threat of disorder the Court of Appeal in this jurisdiction has followed the line of authority that says, `in a democratic society if there is such a threat to public disorder the proportionate response would be to ban, reroute or curtail the parade rather than have the police secure the parade taking place'". Because of that judgment, it is my own legal opinion, I am always open to any other contrary legal opinion, it has effectively copper-fastened a rioter's charter, as I indicated earlier. Whether the Commission, either directly from objectors, or from information given to it by the police, is told that objectors may or will or would create a balancing of circumstances if the parade is permitted then for the Parades Commission—inevitably history shows unfortunately this is the case—the way out is to ban, reroute or curtail the parade. Having had this decision now handed down from the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland, I would be amazed if the Parades Commission ever come to a contrary view than that. Portadown had applied on more than one occasion to have a determination redetermined, but they have never gone to the courts to date. With this particular precedent, as you know that is how we operate, I think it is highly unlikely that in most circumstances there is any likelihood that Portadown would secure any change in the determination by going to the courts as it currently stands. I think it is a very difficult decision to get around for Portadown. It does permit those who threaten violence and disorder a free hand.

  487. In order to pursue the human rights of those who wish to parade peacefully, have you considered whether or not that judgment is appealable to the House of Lords and are there any plans to take it that far?
  (Mr Monteith) I was not the solicitor who brought the Dunloy case. My only understanding of it was when I was sent a copy of the judgment. All I can say is that with the time limits that have passed since it was handed down I would have thought that it appears, and I use that phrase, that there are no plans to appeal it in the Dunloy situation, because the time for appeal has long since past. I have no personal knowledge of that being done. I think that is as far as I can go on that.

Mr Clarke

  488. I would like to return to judicial precedent in a moment, but before I do that, Mr Monteith, in your memorandum to us you claimed and, indeed, you did when you opened this session, that the Parades Commission ignored efforts made by the District in the period July 1999 to July 2000. I believe you said in the introduction the Government ignored you in respect of conversations you had had with ministers. Just for clarity, would it be possible for you to disclose, first of all, what those efforts were and what evidence you have to say that they were ignored?
  (Mr Monteith) It depends on how long you have, Mr Clarke. I will try and keep within bounds. Prior to the start of 1999 there had been considerable efforts at all levels within the Orange Institution to try to avoid what happened in July 1998 reoccurring. There was a series of engagements. Coming up to the marching season in July 1999 there were a series of processes and they were being directly coordinated, certainly we felt, from 10 Downing Street and they had the input of Frank Blair and a series of meetings at Interpoint. At those earlier meetings, Portadown District took full part in the first two sessions, the residents had no interest in the first two sessions; The third part of Frank Blair's process was to have us all in separate rooms at the Interpoint Complex in Belfast with an effort to resolve that year or any other year's parades. Those sessions got absolutely nowhere. They are documented and minuted and I am sure all the information will be made available to you. Immediately after that the Prime Minister's office, through Mr Powell and through the First Minister David Trimble, then tried again. We all ended up in separate rooms again at Stormont House. After that there were further meetings, and I am sure Mr Trimble has advised you about, I do not propose to go into those. There was the intervention by the Prime Minister himself. There was the efforts then made on 4 July 1999 by the Portadown District, which led to a very peaceful July. In the subsequent meetings that I had with the Parades Commission, the last Commission, if I can use that phrase, we were told, Mr Trimble, myself and Mr Campbell were present, "We only have your word for it that you are making any efforts to do anything". We then had the Adam Ingram process, which, again, was carefully minuted by the secretariat there, and I am sure all of that is available to you. We wished to have the Parades Commission present through their observers at those face-to-face talks or discussions. The residents refused. The residents refused to have a video taken. They refused to have verbatim minutes. They argued most of the time at subsequent meetings about what the minutes were as taken by the secretariat. They did not wish the minutes to go to the Parades Commission. They stymied every possible effort for us to demonstrate to the Parades Commission that we were actively engaging to see what the legitimate concerns of the residents were and how we could legitimately address them or try and deal with them. There was nothing they did not try to stymie that whole process. When it got to the situation where they could not do any more they walked out. I respectfully say those are our efforts. They are all minuted and they are all recorded. If you have any difficulty in getting any of those documents we will certainly furnish you with any documents you require or request. Those are the efforts. The evidence really speaks for itself. We were simply told, "You have not engaged, you have done nothing".

  489. I am grateful for that. I am sure the Clerk can follow up that kind offer. One of the things we find difficult is translating efforts and processes into practical action in terms of what may have been offered and what was not offered. I think that is the nitty gritty we need to get to. Turning to the question of judicial review, whilst I accept now in your answer to Mr Beggs' question that you feel that that was not an option you could take forward, you were not the original solicitor, as a Lodge have you ever sought judicial review?
  (Mr Monteith) No.

  490. Can you help me, it seems as if the Lodge does not see legal challenge or judicial review as the way forward. It does not see dialogue as a way forward, is that something that is ruled out by Grand Lodge? If you take out those two, dialogue or legal challenge, what is left?
  (Mr Monteith) You only take a legal challenge where you have some prospect of success. If there were any prospects of success or if the precedents were not against you or circumstances changed, that would be reviewed as and when it occurs. With regard to dialogue, there has been engagement with all parties directly and indirectly by Portadown District. The net result is that we are in the same position today as we were in July 1998. With regard to there being a way forward, I shudder to suggest that the Court of Appeal indirectly has suggested a way forward and the way forward is a greater threat. That is not something that Portadown District would wish to embark upon. It is not their policy, because as they made clear, every Sunday morning they are here in a peaceful protest to walk the return route when lawfully permitted. That has always been their approach. It is strange to find that where the only thing that seems to influence the Parades Commission is the threat of disorder, that other parties may consider that in the future the only way to try to change the Drumcree position in favour of the Portadown District is to threaten greater disorder than that threatened by the residents. That would be an unfortunate state of affairs, and one that we all trust would never come about. That appears to be the import of how the Parades Commission are dealing with the decision. They are breaking up a cycle, as they described it, in their determination of 1998—not to be remedied, is my own submission—they have broken it but they have not fixed it.

Mr Thompson

  491. Good afternoon, gentlemen, we have received representations from people who are concerned that the Parades Commission do not reveal the sources of their knowledge, in other words they do not give out what the police have told them and what others have told them. What representations have been made to the Commission from your particular District concerning access to police advice on particular marches? Have you been aware of any situation when the Parades Commission have acted contrary to police advice?
  (Mr Monteith) I think the short answer is we are unaware of what the police advice has been to the Parades Commission. It has never been revealed to us. We are unaware of the Parades Commission acting contrary to any advice they received.

  492. In your contacts with the police, have you ever had a feeling that they may have felt differently from what the Commission eventually directed?
  (Mr Burrows) We have had contact with the police and I know we did ask them on many occasions what input they have to the Parades Commission and on each occasion they say that they do not have an input. We think that they are bound to have an input. We know the local commanders have always said, "We have not spoken to anybody", they put it over that way. We just get a blank answer from them.

  493. To what extent have the operations of the Commission been affected by the other initiatives you have been involved with, such as those from the Government? What is your assessment of the degree of coordination between the Commission and other bodies? Has the Commission's effectiveness suffered in consequence?
  (Mr Burrows) Even though going back to 1998 there have been proximity talks, the Parades Commission have always stayed back from that and did not even get involved. One church leader within the town on one occasion in 1998-1999 did ask the question, "What about the proximity talks? What about the talks that are going on?" I know the answer from the Commission then was, "We are not aware what happened at those talks". It highlights how keen the Parades Commission were. If they were taking decisions on parades and there was something happening between the two parties you would have thought that the Parades Commission would make sure they knew what was going on there, never mind being close at hand. I know they did not force a point also in the talks about Adam Ingram, they had the chance there as well. Again, the same with the residents when they moved the goalposts. All the time we were trying to find out what their concerns were about the parade, this was a parade that went down in 1997 and there was not a problem. There has not been any problem of trouble any year. Then the Parades Commission would have had a good opportunity to turn around and say to the residents groups, "Move away, we want to bring in a bigger circle of the community into the consideration on this parade".
  (Mr Dawson) Just as a footnote to that, when you apply for a parade they issue a determination. I apply for all the parades on behalf of the District and I get all the determinations. Each and every one of them to this day, and the one which arrived yesterday, continues to say, "In the absence of any meaningful dialogue". The Commission by their own admission are saying that every process we have been in from day one, including the ones that have been chaired by Government Ministers are meaningless because they have turned around and said to us, "In the absence of any meaningful dialogue". They have answered that question for you.

  494. Surely the Commission could not very well say that all of the contracts with the Prime Minister have not been meaningful dialogue. Have you felt him sympathetic and understanding to your position?
  (Mr Dawson) The Prime Minister has said on more than one occasion that the Portadown District have been imaginative and have moved and have boldly taken steps. The action we have taken, particularly in 1999, deserves reciprocation from another quarter. The other quarter we took to mean the Residents' Coalition. The Prime Minister has made that statement publicly and privately to us. Once again, I refer to the determinations of the Parades Commission churned out to me on a weekly basis, "In the absence of any meaningful dialogue". They are saying that is irrelevant.

  495. The final question to Mr Monteith, would you accept as far as the law exists on the mainland that it has been clearly determined that where a breach of the peace is likely to take place, action should be taken against those who are going to break the peace and not against lawful people?
  (Mr Monteith) I understand that that is the case. I think Mr Justice Sedley gave a decision to that effect. You can check that, Mr Thompson. We had rather hoped in this jurisdiction that law breakers would not be rewarded, but unfortunately the current decision appears to suggest that the way out for the Commission is to simply say, "Risk of disorder therefore ban". Banning is what happens as far as the return route here is concerned, which is unfortunate. Certainly the Chief Constable has made it clear that whatever decision is taken by the Commission he will enforce it. Therefore, we are under the impression that should the Commission have made a decision in our favour, that the police and the security forces would have taken the appropriate action to ensure there was a peaceful, orderly and dignified parade from the church back to Carleton Street down the Garvaghy Road.

Mr Beggs

  496. What changes would the Portadown Lodge like to the see in the composition, power and methods of operation of the Parades Commission?
  (Mr Monteith) Speaking personally it depends whether or not the Commission is to remain or not. Ideally if the Commission were removed and we were back to where we were in 1997, that did not cause Portadown District any difficulties in all of those number of years, I anticipate that would be the preferred option. I would think that it is highly unlikely that the police would wish to return to that position, I would be surprised if they did. Therefore, if that is the case, something will have to remain. A personal view is that if the Commission has to remain it is then a question of them properly fulfilling their mandate as per the Act of Parliament, that is not to ignore the promotion and the facilitation of mediation. I made a personal submission to you[1], you have that in writing, that is my own personal view that if the Commission continues to exist that is how they should do it. I made that submission, again personally, when the review was taking place. The Secretary of State at a meeting we had with him, that was the last Secretary of State, he said that some effort should be made with regard to the facilitation of mediation. Nothing has ever been done about that, Mr Beggs, at all. I do not see any great difficulty in Commissioners, or some of them, being actively engaged in some form of taking of evidence in a different way or mediating in a different way to allow them to fully assess and publicly do it, just the way a judge would do it in a Diplock court, where he is judge and jury, to properly assess whether or not there are legitimate concerns for the residents, whether their grievances have been properly considered and whether they been properly addressed by those wishing to parade. No matter how many times we ask, and we have done it through every process that has been outlined, and it was finally done through Brian Currin not many weeks ago, please tell us, "What do the residents want us to do to facilitate that parade down the Garvaghy Road?" They have yet to tell us that after all of these years. If there was a different way of mediation or facilitation it would not be very hard for a Commissioner to ask that question. If he did not get a direct answer, and having got a direct answer if he did not get a proper reply he can then base his judgment, his determination on that. It is a passing the buck process at the minute, whereby the Commission say, "Brian Currin is here, we will let him do something, Portadown are not engaging". Even if we engage with Brian Currin they say, "There has not been enough engagement, you have not done enough", so it goes on and on. I hope that assists, Mr Beggs.

  497. The memorandum comments that the future success of the Parades Commission depends entirely on its acceptance by the whole community. Are there any further changes you believe would help to secure that broader acceptance?
  (Mr Burrows) I think that the Parades Commission in the Portadown District, and in most of the Loyal Orders, believe that the Parades Commission was brought in to stop parades and because certain people said that they did not want to have those parades. The inconsistency of the Parades Commission, take the likes of Kilkeal, where there would be a very high percentage of protestants in the community, we see a parade there a couple of times a year and it is allowed by people who are not from that town, they are allowed to come in and parade in the town. If they were using the same criteria as they are using for themselves in the Drumcree Parade via the Garvaghy Road, they would not be allowed to parade, so it is the inaccuracies that we see within the Commission. We only have the problems we do have with them because they seem to be there not to facilitate but they are not even looking at an ideal way to sort out the problem. As Richard has said, if somebody has a grievance and there is a threat of violence, they are going to win. It is a sorry sight. It also makes people wonder what way you do go about a parade. That is hard to take for law abiding people.


  498. I have a question I want to ask in conclusion, but let me just verify whether there any other supplementary questions any of my colleagues want to ask. I think not. I have a naive question to ask and I also run the risk of seeming stupid as a result of asking it, but I would rather ask it than not. On July 12 last year various members of the Committee went to watch various parades, as I think was known. Indeed in some cases we watched colleagues on the Committee taking part in parades. I did not myself go to Drumcree, although various of my colleagues did. I was in Antrim town and Ballymena. Let me first ask a ground clearing question, I would like to go right back to the answer Mr Dawson gave me earlier, am I right in understanding that of the five traditional parades you identify, Drumcree is the only one which creates problems?
  (Mr Burrows) I would say that Drumcree really does not cause problems; we have people who are inclined to cause problems by stopping that. The five traditional parades, there is no objection to them at the minute. There was an objection on 12 July on the route which they used to take via Obins Street. After the first stand-off in 1995 the eight country Lodges—Portadown is made up of 32 Lodges—then decided that in the interests of the community that they would go another route. On 12 July there used to a problem in the Portadown District as divided by a rerouting and they went another road. Why we feel so strongly about the Drumcree one is because it is a church service and we find it very hard to see why people could be thought to be offended, especially at that time of the day.

  499. I apologise for the language I used. I was not seeking to say you were causing a problem, I was using a descriptive language to say there was a problem with one of the parades whencesoever the trouble came. You have answered the question which I asked. Because I did not go to Drumcree and because I have not had the common intelligence to look at an Ordnance Survey map I do not know whether it is the case that there are only two routes between Drumcree Church and the Lodge in Carleton Street. Is it the case that there are?
  (Mr Dawson) There is another route which would be down a shorter, more direct route, but would bring you back into part of route that we walked out. There is a round circle route, where we walk out via one route and back via another. The residents have suggested we take a seven and a half mile detour, but we have not taken them up on that one.

1   See Appendix 4, p 204. Back

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