Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Submission on the Review of the Workings of the Parades Commission

  Our worst fears about the establishment of the Parades Commission have been realised. These were outlined in our response to the North Report in 1997 (Annex 1), Central in our concerns was that any structures and legislation on parades would weigh more heavily on the Protestant community, which has a greater parading tradition. Thus the legislation and the Commission would not meet Policy Appraisal Fair Treatment principles. This remains the case.

  We object to the interference of an outside body in our parades because we are a religious body, not subject to political influence. We do not believe that any arm of the State has any right to seek to regulate our expression of our religion. As we stated in our response to the Guidelines, Procedural Rules and Code of Conduct, (Annex 2)

    "The Independent Loyal Orange Institution is a `religious and loyal brotherhood' dedicated to the promotion and defence of the Protestant religion. We are not, and never have been, allied to any political party. Constitutionally we express a unionist view, but that unionism is dependent upon the British Throne and Constitution `being Protestant'.

    The parades in connection with our Institution are themselves an expression, a public witness, of our religion. Without exception they are to a religious service, either in church or in the open air. Our banners, flags, regalia, and often band uniforms and equipment have been dedicated, by Ministers of Religion, to the Glory of God.

    In what other democratic country are there such restrictions on the expression of religion as outlined in the draft documents of the parades commission? How can they justify such curtailments of religious expression?"

  We further believe that the current regulatory framework is a reward to those who break the law by blocking roads and that it is a charter for ethnic cleansing of particular areas. Sadly this fear has been realised all too often, as the politically motivated "residents groups" have created an atmosphere where intimidation of Protestant families has become widespread. As previously stated by this Institution, the Commission and the current legislation:

    "starts from the misunderstanding that all of those who object to parades can be placated by some adjustments by those on parade. This is patently not the case. The situation in Portadown demonstrates this very clearly.

    In the Portadown situation, a parade in silence, on one side of the carriageway, with one bannerette, once a year, at lunch time, on a Sunday, along a main arterial route, lasting about fifteen minutes seems to cause immense offence. The simple fact of the matter is that those who object to the parades by Loyal Orders do so because they object to the people on parade, their religion and their rights. The motivation of the objectors to parades is the basest form of sectarian hatred."

  The Parades Commission has failed to deliver on transparency, consistency and professionalism. It has become a factory of grievances adding to, and not helping solve, local disputes. From the outset, the Parades Commission was neither independent nor impartial. It bowed to pressure from the Prime Minister as regards the publication of determinations and it had on its membership those who had publicly expressed views hostile to Orange parades. (Annex 3)


  1.  The Independent Loyal Orange Institution be recognised as a wholly religious body and be accorded the same position in legislation as the Salvation Army.

  2.  That the traditional parades of all the Loyal Orders (and other similar organisations in the Roman Catholic community) be given special status not requiring notification. These parades are on a regular cycle and are well known throughout the community.

  3.  That non-traditional parades be subject to notification to the RUC. Where the RUC feel necessary, the matter should be referred to the Office of First and Deputy First Ministers who, after appropriate consultation, should make the final decision. Their Office is, after all, now responsible for community relations. (In the absence of devolution this matter should be reserved by the Secretary of State)

  4.  That protestors against parades be afforded the right to protest within the law and that any attempt at blocking roads be forcibly resisted by the RUC. This would bring the position in Northern Ireland into line with many other countries throughout the world. (See the North Report—"The Law in Other Countries")

  5.  That the responsibility be placed on the objectors against parades to persuade the Loyal Orders to desist from parading in non-traditional routes.

  6.  That paramilitary displays be banned from all parades.

  7.  That alcohol be banned from all parades.

  8.  That at sensitive locations, and on Sundays, hymn tunes only be played.

  These, we believe would restore some semblance of common sense to the parading issue and begin to restore the confidence of the Protestant community in the institutions of the State.

27 March 2000

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