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I follow on from what the noble Lord said about sporting events. Indeed, where might the sporting events take place? I can tell the Minister--I am sure he is aware; the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, will certainly be aware--that a major sporting event took place last week in the city of Glasgow. Usually it involves both sport and cultural identity, and it is certainly way outside Northern Ireland. I do not know whether it is beyond the scope of the Bill; should it be beyond the scope of the commission? I refer of course to the happy, four times a year meeting of the Celtic Rangers, the result of which can give rise to scenes of considerable disorder in the Province.
My noble friend's amendment enters very much into my thoughts about the Bill before us and the discussions of the Committee. Sporting events look quite harmless but I am sure the Minister will understand that they are not.
Lord Fitt: As time goes on, it will become clearer and more evident that the clause should never have been included in the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, has already said that even from his side of the Committee he finds it very difficult to understand the full ramifications. If one wanted to be less than serious one could say that in the amendment he has moved to exclude sporting events, and the Government have included sporting events. In view of all the facts relating to Formula One that we have been reading about over the past few days, has any subscription to be made to any of the major parties in Northern Ireland in relation to sporting events?
It can clearly be seen that to implement any of this will cause turmoil in Northern Ireland. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, has put down amendments relating to public processions and sporting events. That can be related to the winning of a match, or attendance at a football match or a Gaelic match; but when does a procession become a parade, and when does a parade become a procession? The Government will find great difficulty in determining what is a parade and what is a procession.
As I said on the Second Reading of the Bill in relation to this question of expressions of cultural identity which take place wholly or partly in the open air, in Northern Ireland the flying of a flag is an expression of a cultural identity, and I referred to the flags and emblems Bill which we had in Northern Ireland. People conversing in any particular area might see one or half a dozen Union Jacks at a distance, or a half dozen tricolours at a distance. If it offends their cultural identity, do they make representation to the commission to have those flags removed? Who removes them? If they are removed by the police it immediately throws the police again into the cauldron of sectarian politics in Northern Ireland.
In relation to this whole business of wholly or partly in the open air, how do you determine what is right? Could you paint either King William or the Pope on a gable wall? Does it have to be done in the open air? It cannot be done at two or three o'clock in the morning; it has to be done during the hours of daylight, although some graffiti has been done in the early hours of the morning. That is an expression of cultural identity again. Carrying it to its most laughable extent, there is the red, white and blue of the kerbstones. People traversing from one Protestant area to another, and I am thinking particularly of County Antrim, can pass through from Ballycastle to Coleraine and see two different expressions of paintings on gables in Coleraine and in Ballycastle and in Dunloy and in Armoy. Does the commission have the power under Clause 3 to prevent either the painting of those gable walls, or, if the gable walls had been painted, to make sure that they are erased because they offend one section of the community?
It is very difficult for the Government in any way to implement Clause 3, and I would ask the Minister why it was included in the Bill. What representations were made to the Government? Was it included with the intention of balancing the Bill, recognising that the main thrust of the Bill was aimed at the Protestant or Orange cultural identity so something had to be included in the Bill which would show that it was not one-sided or biased but reflected impartiality and neutrality? If that was the intention, it has signally failed.
I do not think there is any necessity for Clause 3 in this Bill, and any reasonable Member, either of this Committee or who lives in Northern Ireland, will see that this Bill was brought before your Lordships' Committee to deal specifically with trouble that had been brought about by contentious parades. That was the reason for this Bill being brought to this Committee, and why it will be brought to the other end of the building. You could have dealt with what we call republican parades, or Irish nationalist parades. They would all come within the context of this Bill. But in relation to all the other issues contained in Clause 3, I do not believe the provisions will ever be implemented. If you bring a bad law to the statute book, you will have every sore head in Northern Ireland bringing grievances to the political arena. People will use Clause 3 to invent grievances. Many inventive minds in Northern Ireland will see something as provocative because they want to be provocative. They want to be provoked. Clause 3 gives them every indication that if they do so they will get away with it.
I feel deeply concerned about Clause 3. I dislike the thought of sporting events being brought into the Bill. During the nine years I spent on the Sports Council, and the 20 or more years I have been involved with sport in Northern Ireland, we have done our best to keep sporting events and sport out of the political arena. It would be a great tragedy if it were sucked in by this provision.
I take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, about painted gable and painted kerbs, abortions that they are--sometimes artistic, but nevertheless abortions. To place the responsibility on the commission to decide what is right and wrong is like trying to make choices of which painting should go to the National Art Gallery. It would be totally impossible.
Clause 3 as it stands is inadequate to do the job that we clearly think that it should do. Were I ever to be a member of that commission I should be concerned as to how I could honestly do the work requested of the commission in relation to expressions of culture and identity.
This is a good Bill. It is a necessary Bill in relation to parades. It would be a pity to contaminate or overload the commission by giving it a task which at this stage seems to be verging on the impossible.
Lord Eames: I have hesitated to take part in this discussion for obvious reasons. However, I believe that discussion on Clause 3 is the opportunity for me to say something on an issue which has concerned me greatly as I have watched the development of the Bill. I apologise that I, too, was unable to be present at Second Reading. However, I hope what I have to say is relevant to the present discussion.
First, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, as regards religious services. That will not surprise him. I wish to express to the Minister a deep concern as one who has found himself in the cock pit of all that the Bill is set to ameliorate.
Secondly, with the other Church leaders in Northern Ireland, I have found myself on several occasions attempting to negotiate solutions to individual parades. My concern is based on my thoughts since the North Report became public. In the growing expansion of details being given to the commission, there is a real danger that what is initially essential to the life of Northern Ireland will deteriorate because of the vast amount of detail that the commission will be asked to address.
I took the simplistic view, not just as a Church leader but as a lawyer, that the commission would deal as fairly as possible with this cancer which is the sectarian aspects of public processions. I took the view, perhaps naively at the beginning, that the commission was being given a specific task. I respected that task, and I encouraged it. Now I find, as I listen to this discussion, as I read the debate in Hansard, the commission's remit is growing, growing, growing. It is going into areas of concern where the sensitivities cannot even be described in speech. They have to be felt on the ground, they have to be experienced by those who are involved and by those who have a part in them. I am sorry to take up the Committee's time in expanding this theory under Clause 3, but this is the crucial point in the discussion.
If we allow our party continually to expand the remit given to this important commission, we will regret it. I also believe that it will become a mockery on both sides of our religious and political divide if it is not seen to be addressing the essentials of our problems.
I have referred in public to a cancer of sectarianism, and that cancer is equally shared on both sides of our community. I believe in my heart that this commission can make a definite contribution to relieving that cancer. It will not solve it all but it can take us along the way. If that is to be the vision of this commission, what I believe is happening now is that by constantly expanding the area of its remit we are going to dilute it so much in the perception of the people of Northern Ireland that it will lose very much of the potential and the vision that I believe it ought to have.
I should like to make one brief point. The Minister said in his earlier comments that it is not the Government's role to start telling the commission what expressions of cultural identity are. It is not the Government's role to start giving examples, and that is just what the clause is doing: it is flagging up a definition and going into detail. There is no end to this path if you start going down it, and it is very dangerous. What the clause proposes is completely contrary to what the Minister said earlier.
As the noble Lord, Lord Holme, said, this is an unnecessary bolt-on, and I hope that the Minister will seriously reconsider, particularly what is said in line 17. As most of us know, there is a long history in Ireland of sporting events and clubs being used for political purposes, and it is unfortunate if sporting events are introduced into the Bill in any form. I do hope that the Minister will seriously reconsider Clause 3.
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