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


Memorandum submitted by Archbishop Robin Eames, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland

  1.  While I regret the necessity for a Commission on parades in Northern Ireland I appreciate the complexities which face them in their task.

  2.  Given that local agreement between conflicting issues is the ideal for a just outcome of any parade dispute it is vital that every opportunity is taken to encourage local accommodation prior to a determination.

  3.  It is important to distinguish between mediation and the expression of what would be acceptable to the Commission prior to any determination.

  4.  I have reservations about a process of mediation being undertaken by the body which will ultimately make a determination.

  5.  There is value in the Commission indicating clearly what it expects of the parties for a favourable determination but if mediation between them is to be the responsibility of the Commission I believe confusion will result.

  6.  I suggest that if mediation is to be involved in any process prior to a determination that it is clearly understood what body or who should be responsible in that regard.

  7.  It is equally important that the mediation party should be recognised officially by the Commission, clearly identified and accepted by the parties and maintains contact with the Commission during the process.

  8.  I recognise the difficulties which can and do arise if:

    —  Parties are confronted by several agencies of mediation

    —  Uncertainty prevails as to the primacy of the mediation offers

    —  Mediation is unclear as to what would or would not be acceptable to the Commission

    —  Either party perceives unfair treatment by the Commission in a role of mediation.

  9.  The present form of determination by the Commission states the reason for a decision in terms of failure to engage, risk of violence, etc. I feel that if this format is to continue more evidence should be produced of appreciation for any efforts by the parties to reach agreement rather than a simple statement of the insufficiency of effort etc.

  10.  I believe the ideal would be the appointment and recognition of an agent or agency of mediation, a clear statement of what is required for a favourable determination and a stated period during which discussion should take place.

  11.  Refusal to engage in face to face discussion by a party should not be the only reason for a negative determination. While such encounter is desirable cognisance should be taken of "genuine questions of principle". Movement is sometimes possible through the use of intermediators, etc.

December 2000

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