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JOINT SUBMISSION

TO

THE WORKING PARTY ON PARADING ISSUES

from

GARVAGHY ROAD RESIDENTS COALITION


Portadown
&
LOWER ORMEAU CONCERNED COMMUNITY
Belfast
th
19 FEBRUARY 2010

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION 1

THE GOOD FRIDAY AGREEMENT, HUMAN RIGHTS AND ANY PROPOSED 6


CHANGES TO LEGISLATION

ENSURING CONFIDENCE IN THE INDEPENDENCE OF A PARADES 10


COMMISSION

ENGAGEMENT/MEDIATION 11

CONFIDENTIALITY and TRANSPARENCY 14

MONITORING OF PARADES AND POLICING OF PARADES 17

ENFORCEMENT 19

APPENDIX 1 Response to SRPB’s Interim Consultative Report 21


[GRRC/LOCC: Joint Submission to Working Party on Parading Issues.
19th February 2010

1. INTRODUCTION

The Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition and the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community take
this opportunity to make a submission to the working group established under the
Hillsborough Castle Agreement to deal with parades issues.

However, we must state those concerns expressed by many in our communities that the
establishment of this working group may not have been motivated by a real desire to
improve on the existing Parades Commission or associated legislation, but rather that it
arose out as a concession to those Unionist parties who oppose any restrictions on the small
percentage of loyal order marches in the North of Ireland that have been contentious.

We are also concerned that the working group is tasked, inter alia, with building upon “the
interim report of the Strategic Review of Parading”.

That concern is based around the fact that, in its Interim Consultative Report, the Strategic
Review of Parading Body (SRPB) did not reach any conclusions with regards to parades in
Portadown or the Ormeau Road in Belfast. In the absence of a final published report by the
SRPB and therefore, without any knowledge of what those conclusions or recommendations
may have been, even in draft form, both of our communities are placed at a distinct
disadvantage.

Furthermore, we have previously published our views regarding the SRPB’s proposals
contained in the Interim Consultative Report which relate to the role of both local and
regional governmental structures.

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At a time when the wider regional political structures have not yet been fully bedded down
and where the local governmental structures are due to undergo major transformation, this
could prove to be a questionable and high-risk strategy with a capacity to re-ignite, rather
than defuse, community tensions around existing contentious parades and marches. Our
response to the Interim Consultative Report can be found at Appendix 1.

Additionally, the SRPB’s proposals relating to adjudication panels, and the appointment of
such panels “on a case by case basis”, could, in our view, lead to various rights-based or
other criteria being applied in an inconsistent manner. This is likely to prove to be the
outcome where, on “a case by case basis”, several different panels would be appointed to
deal with several contentious parades along the same particular route.

Even if the SRPB’s recommendations were to be amended to see the creation of area-based
panels, our view would still remain that any such multiplicity of adjudication panels would
inevitably lead to criteria not being uniformly applied, different interpretations of rights
being produced, and inexplicable, illogical and inconsistent adjudications/determinations
being delivered.

Parades do not exist or take place in a sanitised vacuum. Any individual parade and the
problems around it grow out of a wider context. Indeed, that context can well be the result
of cross-generational experiences stretching back many years.

It is our view that the Report of the Independent Review of Parades and Marches published
in 1997 (the North Report), rather than the Interim Consultative Report of the SRPB, should
form the basis of discussions on the way forward. It was, after all, instrumental in
recommending the establishment of a Parades Commission and new associated legislation.

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We wish to make it clear that we fully support the North Report’s concept of a ‘Parades
Commission’-type body – but we also insist that such a body must be one which is
completely independent and free from political interference at all levels, commencing with
the appointments process itself; one that is open, fair and transparent in its dealings with
everyone; and one which has widespread acceptance of its effectiveness and impartiality.

That is not to say that the North Report was a perfect instrument. At that time, we also
expressed some initial scepticism about the need for a Parades Commission, believing that
Government was merely abdicating from its international responsibility and duty in law to
uphold and protect the rights of minority communities from the threat of fear and violence.

However, the North Report did lay down many of the foundations upon which the present
legislative framework relating to parades is based and which has assisted in defusing much
of the controversy around the major parading conflict points.

It is also worth noting that the British Government in bringing forward legislation (The Public
Processions Act) also ignored a number of the North Report’s findings.

In particular, the North Report recommended at Chapter 13, paragraph 34 that:


“a) guidelines should be prepared setting out the factors which the Parades
Commission will take into account in determining whether a parade be made subject
to conditions,
b) the factors should include:
*the physical location and the route of the parade,
*the impact of the parade on the local community,
*the purpose of the parade,
*features particular to that parade,
*the approach of the interested parties to reaching a local accommodation.”

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Significantly these do not refer to, or include, either custom or traditionality as determining
factors. In contrast, however, the legislation enacted pursuant to the North Report and the
current guidelines refer to: “the desirability of allowing a procession customarily held along
a particular route to be held along that route.”

We submit that this factor should be deleted in any review of existing mechanisms or
legislation. Not only does this criterion have no foundation in human rights law, but also,
past bad practice is not a sound basis for organising or permitting contentious marches to
proceed through areas that have undergone radical demographic change or have suffered
the worst extremes of violence over the years.

This submission is supported by the North Report (as explained above) and by the Parades
Commission's own annual report dated June 2000. The latter states that 70% of people
surveyed by Research and Evaluation Services considered that "the changing religious mix of
an area should be taken into consideration by those organising parades."

Furthermore, the Quigley Review of the Parades Commission published in 2002 also
recommended removing from the existing legislation and guidelines the current provision
which requires that regard be had to ‘the desirability of allowing a procession customarily
held along a particular route to be held along that route’.

We would contend that removing this criterion would assist in expanding the parameters
within which the parades issue is discussed and would allow fuller examination of what can
be termed the primary and secondary purposes or objectives for the organisers of any
particular parade.

For example, the primary purpose may be attendance at a church service, a commemorative
event at a particular location, or a trade union rally. As long as the primary purpose is

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secured (attendance at the particular event), then the method or route by which persons go
to or from the event location should be of secondary importance to the organising body.

Additionally, where a number of routes or locations are available, which equally permit the
securing of the primary and secondary purposes, then insistence by any organising body to
proceed only by their preferred option to the exclusion of all other routes or locations,
regardless of the impact on the local or wider community, must bring into question the
motivation behind that insistence.

This aspect must then be examined more fully.

Is there any overt or covert sectarian or racist motivation behind that insistence? Does the
organisation itself practice exclusivity in terms of religion, race, ethnicity, or other such
status?

Such examination must, also, include other matters relating to a particular community’s
past experience of parades in a specific location, particularly in relation to the impact upon
the immediate community and upon wider community relations. As such, these must
equally become determining factors.

We are also in favour of restricting certain contentious marches in specific areas for a
specified length of time. Indeed, this view is entirely consistent with one of the original
recommendations arising from the Independent Review of Parades and Marches.

A new and enhanced Parades Commission should be empowered to reach and issue
determinations in relation to one or more parades in an area and to do so where appropriate
for a minimum period of one year and a maximum period of five years, as the ultimate

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sanction against non-compliance with legally-binding determinations. We also believe that


this will prevent any re-occurrence of the abuse of process which has occurred in relation to
Portadown, for example, where repeat weekly applications for a parade along a contested
route have been made since 1998.

We also support the strengthening of the mediation role in relation to contentious parades,
but may differ from others on how this can be achieved.

In the rest of this submission, we put forward a number of proposals which, we believe, will
strengthen and enhance the existing Commission, or a new and enhanced Commission, and
ensure its acceptance among all sections of the community.

2. THE GOOD FRIDAY AGREEMENT, HUMAN RIGHTS AND

ANY PROPOSED CHANGES TO LEGISLATION

The importance of the Good Friday Agreement - with its principles of equality and parity of
esteem defining the nature of democracy in the North of Ireland and its progress towards
conciliation between the traditions - must be the constitutional context and framework
within which all legislation must be applied and interpreted. We are of the view that, in
relation to any consideration of changes in legislation dealing with the governance of
contentious marches in the North of Ireland, full consideration must at all times be given to
the political Agreement signed as an international treaty in 1998.

In particular, governments and parties should be mindful of the stated duty in that
document to ensure the protection of the right of people to live free from sectarian
harassment.

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Almost twelve years on since the promise made in the Good Friday Agreement that
everyone had “the right to freedom from sectarian harassment” little or no action has been
taken to enshrine that right in law.

It is our view that, as a parallel and equally timebound process to any discussions on
parades, steps must immediately be put in place which will see legislation enshrining “the
right to freedom from sectarian harassment” framed and enacted.

Few sections of the community in the North of Ireland have been immune from the effects
of sectarianism. In order to afford protection to all citizens, any such legislation, by its
nature, must be completely separate and distinct from specific legislation framed to deal
with public assemblies.

Furthermore, legislation aimed at protecting “the right to freedom from sectarian


harassment” must also be framed with a view to ensuring its compatibility with any future
Bill of Rights.

The European Court has explicitly stated that the European Convention on Human Rights is
to be read as a whole, and that therefore the application of any individual Article must be in
harmony with the overall logic of the Convention.

European case law also indicates that the types of restrictions that might be imposed on an
assembly relate to its time, place, and manner. In other words, rather than the choice for
the authorities being between non-intervention and prohibition, there are many mid-range
limitations that might adequately serve the purpose(s) that they seek to achieve. Regulation
can and may be both necessary and appropriate because of the location for which an
assembly or parade is proposed.

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The time, place, and manner of individual public assemblies can be regulated to prevent
them from unreasonably interfering with the rights and freedoms of other people. This
reflects the need to strike a proper balance between the rights of persons participating in an
assembly or parade and the requirement of not imposing unnecessary burdens or
restrictions on the rights of non-participants.

In our view, no-one should countenance any piecemeal application of the Human Rights Act
which could undermine either the spirit and purpose of the Convention or the Good Friday
Agreement. That Agreement also affirmed “the right to freely choose one’s place of
residence”.

Residents of areas affected by contentious marches are exactly that - residents - men, women
and children with human and civil rights who happen to reside, work, visit or carry out
business in a particular locality.

As residents, they have the right to respect for their private and family life and their homes,
and the right to peaceful enjoyment of their possessions. They also have requirements to
regularly leave or enter that locality without undue or unnecessary impediments to access
their places of employment, or to access medical treatment at doctors’ surgeries or hospitals,
etc.
In contrast to the right of freedom of assembly (which could be described as “moveable” in
the sense that such a right can be equally enjoyed and exercised at locations other than the
organising body’s preferred location), many of the various rights enjoyed by residents are not
“moveable”.

The fallacy of seeing residents as mere “objectors” or “counter-demonstrators” forms a large


part of the flawed debate around contentious parades. It is a not a simple case of one group
demonstrating support for a particular and explicit cause, countered by another group
opposing that cause.

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It has always been our position that residents do not object to the right to freedom of
assembly per se, but they do object to oppressive, triumphalist or abusive marches that,
among other things, disrupt their right to peaceful enjoyment of family life, privacy, or to
peacefully go about their normal business.

It is also worth pointing out that public assemblies and marches are treated differently in
Britain than in the North of Ireland.

The Parades Commission in the North of Ireland can only impose route and/or behavioural
limitations upon contentious marches. This is in marked contrast to the situation whereby
the British Government exercises a more robust approach in dealing with the imposition of
limitations upon contentious assemblies in England.

Blanket bans on all outdoor public assemblies due to racial unrest in Bradford, Burnley and
Nottingham for periods of up to three months in recent years are evidence of this fact.

Even when march organisers in the North of Ireland stated that they did not intend to
accept, or to abide by, the Commission's rulings, or failed to abide by such rulings, this
outright banning capacity was not resorted to by Government nor was it sought by the Chief
Constable, for example, at Drumcree in 1998 or since.

However, while we highlight this discrepancy, we do not seek the widespread imposition of
such draconian measures. Instead, we believe that the imposition of route restrictions for
extended periods of time should be available only as an option of last resort, particularly in
cases where there has been repeated non-compliance with determinations and restrictions.
Nationalists have sought merely to have route restrictions imposed upon contentious
parades and marches which impinge upon the rights and freedoms of citizens residing,
working or carrying out business in those areas affected by these contentious marches.

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While we urge that the right to freedom of assembly be limited, we do respect that the
right, as defined by Article 11 and within the overall application of the ECHR, exists. Indeed,
it should be noted that the right to freedom of assembly has been upheld. No complete or
outright bans on that right of assembly have been recommended by the Commission, or
imposed by the British Government, even in view of the extensive violence which has
emanated from members and supporters of the Loyal Orders or participants in various band
parades.

Independent observers, including Irish, British, Canadian and South African


parliamentarians, at certain contentious parades have reported appalling scenes of sectarian
abuse by marchers against residents. Residents were also subjected to violence from state
forces on those same occasions and placed under what were, to all intents and purposes,
periods of martial law and lengthy curfews.

To characterise the need for regulation of such marches, as those who oppose such regulation
have done, as nothing more than an alleged caving in to the threat of violence from residents
is a gross distortion of historical and proven facts that requires challenge rather than
repetition.

3. ENSURING CONFIDENCE IN THE INDEPENDENCE OF


A PARADES COMMISSION

Rightly or wrongly and at various times, the Parades Commission as established by law has
been charged with a lack of independence from government and political control. That lack
of independence from overt political manipulation was evident in the flawed appointments
process of 2006 resulting in a two year legal action which eventually ruled a number of
appointments to be biased and unlawful. We believe that the issue of the independence of the

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Commission, or a new and enhanced Commission, can be addressed to the satisfaction of all
through the following proposals:

(a) The Commission


In order to introduce an external element into the process of recruitment and
selection of Commissioners, three independent assessors, themselves completely
independent of government and from any political direction, should be appointed to
actively oversee and report on the recruitment/selection process;
Full copies of the independent assessors' reports relating to any appointments would
also be made available for public scrutiny;
Membership of the Commission would last for a maximum of five years;
In order to ensure continuity of experience, and in common with best practice,
members would be selected and recruited on a rotational basis, and
The Commission's make-up should at all times reflect the demographics of the
North of Ireland.
(b) Commission staff:
The practice of secondment of civil servants to the Commission from other
government departments would totally cease, and
All staff and personnel positions will be filled through an open recruitment policy in
accordance with fair employment practice.

We believe the latter two proposals to be in keeping with best practice and Fair Employment
and equality legislation.
4. ENGAGEMENT/MEDIATION

We would contend that any process of engagement/mediation must also allow examination
of what can be termed the primary and secondary purposes or objectives for the organisers
of any particular parade.

As we have pointed out in Section 1, the primary purpose may be attendance at a church
service, a commemorative event at a particular location, or a trade union rally. As long as

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the primary purpose is secured (attendance at the particular event), then the method or
route by which persons go to or from the event location should be of secondary importance
to the organising body.

Additionally, where a number of routes or locations are available, which equally permit the
securing of the primary and secondary purposes, then insistence by any organising body to
proceed only by their preferred option to the exclusion of all other routes or locations,
regardless of the impact on the local or wider community, must bring into question the
motivation behind that insistence.

It seems to us that, from any objective standpoint, those who wish to march through an
area, particularly a residential district, where there is overwhelming public opposition to
such a march, are under a greater onus to make their case than the residents of that area,
not least of all because all marches are to some extent disruptive.

Indeed, one can draw a comparison here between the pros and cons of certain assemblies,
perceived to be racist, taking place near or through ethnic minority neighbourhoods in
Britain.

This is not to say that residents are not under an obligation to be reasonable, but in deciding
upon whether a march may proceed along a particular street it seems to us that there
should be more regard to the efforts, or absence of them, on the part of the marchers, to
gain acceptance from the residents, rather than to the willingness or otherwise of the
residents to be persuaded.

Residents, in areas where there has been sectarian violence and murders, who, in the past,
have been subjected to sectarian abuse and violence by marchers and fellow-travellers at

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parades, will rightly object to any pressure not to oppose further such parades without clear
evidence of a radical change in attitude and behaviour on the part of the marchers. In the
absence of such change, residents will understandably withstand pressure put on them to
change from their position.

By saying this we do not seek to absolve Nationalists in the North of Ireland, or ethnic
minorities in Britain or elsewhere in Europe, from their social responsibilities, but those
responsibilities do not extend to putting up with further sectarian or racial abuse.

We propose that:

In any process of engagement, those wishing to parade through residential areas in


particular should be obliged to deal fully with all issues relating to their proposed
parade including:
 The primary purpose and destination of the parade
 The availability of alternative routes
 The previous history of similar parades and their impact on the local and wider
community
The efforts of parade organisers to deal effectively with these issues during any
process of engagement should be taken into account when decisions are being made
by the Commission, or a new and enhanced Commission, involved in adjudication.

We agree, in principle, with the view that the engagement or mediation role must be
strengthened and separated from the adjudication function. Our understanding is that the
two functions are currently separate within the workings of a Parades Commission.

We propose the creation of a dedicated unit within Commission structures staffed by


properly trained personnel with proven expertise and wide experience in the field of
engagement/mediation and conflict resolution.

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This dedicated unit would act under the direction of, and report to, a senior
Commissioner (possibly the vice-chairperson).
In order to prevent conflict of interest and avoid duplication of roles, that senior
Commissioner, as director of engagement/mediation and conflict resolution, would
play no active role in any adjudication process.

The quality, expertise and experience of those personnel involved in this internal unit will
obviously be the most crucial aspect to be addressed by the Commission and by
government. The ability to recruit personnel with international conflict resolution
experience from outside the North of Ireland must be considered.

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5. CONFIDENTIALITY and TRANSPARENCY

The key issue here, in our view, is not any supposed conflict between transparency and
confidentiality, but a truthful examination of whether or not a Commission is making fair and
proper decisions; whether that can be discerned from their published decisions; and whether
or not there is due regard given to the need to protect the confidentiality, and thus the safety,
of individuals.

Given the reality of life in the North of Ireland, it seems to us essential that the process of
determining whether or not restrictions need to be placed on any given parade should not
itself deepen the tensions that already exist.

We also believe that in the case of organisations such as the Loyal Orders, residents’
organisations, political parties, trade unions, Chambers of Commerce, police, etc,
submissions made by them to the Commission for consideration should be made available to
each of the other parties in the particular dispute. Submissions by individuals should also be
made available but can be anonymised before distribution to all other parties.

From a Nationalist viewpoint, one source of the lack of transparency arises from the content
of 'secret' briefings given to the Commission by the PSNI. We believe that evidence and
"intelligence reports" given during such briefings, which remain unseen and cannot be
challenged, is inconsistent with the right to a fair hearing.

On the other hand, some of those connected to the Loyal Orders would contend that they do
not know of the reasons behind Nationalist objections to their marches.

Without resorting to an open adversarial type of process, there are ways and means by which
greater openness and transparency can be introduced to the workings of the Commission, or a
new and enhanced Commission, particularly during the pre-determination, determination,
pre-review and review processes.
We propose that:

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All parties to a dispute, including the police, should be initially asked to present
formal written submissions, setting out their areas of concern along with relevant
evidence, to the Commission.
The Commission would then furnish all parties to a particular dispute with
consolidated copies of all submissions made by organisations and/or individuals
opposing or favouring a march. While the identity of organisations should be
disclosed, the identity of individuals would be anonymised, unless with their prior
agreement.
All parties, knowing each other's position, would then be invited to individual
hearings with the Commission. Not only would the Commission cross-examine each
party on its own position paper, but each party would also be in the beneficial
position of being able to reject or refute allegations or evidence presented to the
Commission by the other party or parties.
Having considered all evidence and rebuttals, the Commission would then
adjudicate upon the matter and issue a determination wholly compatible with the
ECHR including, within that, a clear and concise summary of all evidence received
and substantiated by it.
A similar process would be carried out during the review stage.

Without question, the above would necessitate changes to the time-scales for notification,
adjudication, review, etc. We believe that the following timescales will facilitate such a
process.

We propose:
That the deadline for submission of notice of a parade should be extended to not less
than 42 days.
If there is to be an exception to the above, we submit that parade organisers who
breach the deadline be required to show a satisfactory reason for that breach.

That no bands are authorised to participate in a parade other than those identified at
the time of submission of the formal notification. (As parades are often an annual
event, usually taking place around the same date and times each year, and are often
organised well in advance, it should not be too difficult to introduce this. It also means

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that the Commission and other interested parties will know if a parade applied for will
have 5, 10 or 35 bands participating)
That in the case of contentious parades, original determinations by a Parades
Commission shall be decided and made public no less than 21 days prior to the date of
any proposed march.
In order to permit citizens the exercise of their right to legal remedy or redress
through the courts, a Parades Commission should have the power to review its earlier
conclusions, provided that such a review should be completed and the conclusions
made public no less than 14 days before a proposed march.
We also propose that the intervention powers of the Chief Constable be removed.
While this will not prevent the police from making submissions to the Commission, it
will avoid a position where they can effectively overrule a legal determination.

6. MONITORING OF PARADES AND POLICING OF PARADES

At the present time, the Commission does have a small team of parade monitors. We believe
that this work should be enhanced.

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We propose:
That the work and membership of the monitoring team be extended to ensure the
effective monitoring of compliance and non-compliance with determinations, and
the reporting, either in writing or by audio/visual means, of all incidents of non-
compliance with determinations by parades organisers, participants or supporters,
to the Commission. In order to ensure transparency and openness, copies of these
reports should be open for public inspection at the Commission's offices.
That these parade monitors work completely independently of the police, as
monitoring of policing operations before, during and after parades should form part
of their duties.
In this regard, and where breaches of legally-binding determinations have occurred,
it will be part of this team's tasks to monitor any immediate or follow-up actions by
the police (including establishing if any processes for prosecution are initiated) and
to fully report their findings, in writing, to the Commission. Again, full copies of
these reports should be open for public inspection at the Commission's offices.
That these reports be accepted by the Commission as evidence with regard to future
applications for parades.

Anyone who has any concerns about the policing of any specific parade, or parades generally,
should be able to voice those concerns to the Parades Commission.

However, for that to happen, the Commission should be given the means to ensure proper and
full investigation of such complaints.

We propose amending the appropriate legislation to extend the remit and powers of
the Police Ombudsman's office in order to examine police operational matters in this
regard.
We also propose that a permanent member of that office's staff be appointed to liase
with the Parades Commission in order to deal with complaints or issues raised
through that forum.

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7. ENFORCEMENT

While there is ample, hard evidence which can be produced to demonstrate repeated breaches
and clear cases of non-compliance with Parades Commission determinations, few, if any,
examples can be produced to show how those responsible have been dealt with by the
authorities, including the CPS.

Non-enforcement, rather than effective enforcement, of the law appears to have been the
norm in relation to the foregoing. To reverse this inadequacy will be part of the task for the
parade monitors and the Police Ombudsman's Office as set out in Section 6 of this paper.

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However, if a new and enhanced Parades Commission is to govern and adjudicate on parades
and marches in an effective manner, then it must also be equipped with the wherewithal
necessary for proper enforcement.

Therefore, we propose that:


In the case of contentious parades, (i.e. those which are referred to the Commission
for consideration) it will be a further requirement for organisers of such parades to
post bonds and provide proof of insurance, etc. (Organisers of public events, such as
festivals, concerts, etc., are already obliged to produce such documentation)
Unless through the intervention of the courts, a determination of a Parades
Commission shall be legally binding on all parties, including the police. (Experience has
shown that breaches of determinations have occurred and, moreover, that the police
failed to act to ensure compliance, on the part of organisers and participants, with
conditions imposed by the Commission. This can be also be evidenced by the low
number of cases referred for prosecution by the police and by the low level of successful
prosecutions initiated by the CPS.)
Legislation be introduced empowering the Commission to impose fines and penalties
for breaches of determinations and/or the Code of Conduct upon the named
individual organiser, the local organisational body and upon individual participants.
Where the local organisational body is part of a larger organisation, and where repeat
offences have occurred, that the power to sequestrate the funds or property of the
larger organisation be conferred upon a Parades Commission. (Financial sanctions are
often applied when organisations or individuals fail to comply with statutory
requirements throughout a broad spectrum of activities in public life. Parade organisers
or participants should not be treated differently)
Where there have been repeated instances of non-compliance with determinations
and/or the code of conduct, and/or offensive behaviour or violence by march
participants, a Parades Commission should be empowered to reach and promulgate
conclusions in relation to one or more parades in an area and to do so, where
appropriate, for a minimum period of one year and a maximum period of five years.

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That it be a legal requirement for a Parades Commission and Police Ombudsman's


Office to record information on parades in detail and monitor the impartiality,
fairness and effectiveness of the police in ensuring compliance with the Commission's
determinations.

APPENDIX 1

Joint Response by Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition and Lower Ormeau Concerned
Community to the SRPB’s Interim Consultative Report
(Published 29th April 2008)

Since the 1990s, both the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition and the Lower Ormeau
Concerned Community have campaigned for change in the way contentious marches are
governed.

It is our view that the creation of the Strategic Review Body on Parading was not motivated
by any genuine desire to improve the effectiveness of the Parades Commission or current
processes for dealing with contentious parades. Instead, its genesis in 2006 was as a political

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[GRRC/LOCC: Joint Submission to Working Party on Parading Issues.
19th February 2010

concession to unionist parties opposed to any restrictions on the relatively small number of
contentious loyal order marches.

We are very mindful of the injustices inflicted upon our communities as a result of parades,
particularly during the 1990s.

All that our communities had sought was the re-routing of a small number of contentious
marches. We had argued for the right to live in peace without the deep sense of fear,
outrage and humiliation that consistently marked these sectarian parades through our
neighbourhoods.

Instead, due to political expediency, unwanted sectarian marches were imposed upon our
communities through the use of threats and violence by unionism and force from both the
police and the British Army. The indiscriminate use of plastic bullets, brutal assaults upon
residents, illegal curfews and massive restrictions on the movement of people within our
communities were a harsh reality.

We welcomed the Independent Review on Parades and Marches (the North Review)
established in 1996 in response to events in Portadown and the Ormeau Road. We
expressed some scepticism about the need for a Parades Commission. It was our belief that
Government was abdicating its responsibility to protect minority communities from fear and
the threat of violence.

Nevertheless, in our view, the Parades Commission concept did succeed in introducing a
degree of autonomy into decisions about contentious parades that was noticeably absent
when such decisions were previously taken by the police, politicians or the courts.

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[GRRC/LOCC: Joint Submission to Working Party on Parading Issues.
19th February 2010

While we have not agreed with all determinations on contentious marches, there is no
doubt that the first and second Parades Commissions did eventually succeed in changing the
climate around such contentious marches.

Since the start of this millennium, the re-routing of sectarian marches away from the
Garvaghy and Ormeau Roads by the Commission has meant that our communities – and the
wider community – have enjoyed successive peaceful summers.

The clouds of fear, tension and violence, and the physical sieges of our two communities
that accompanied those sectarian marches, have also disappeared. Residents in our
neighbourhoods now enjoy family and community life in relative peace and tranquillity.

It is against this background that we believe this present Report to be unnecessary and
largely unhelpful.

We are concerned that the Strategic Review Body’s recommendations will politicise, rather
than de-politicise, the marching issue.

The Review Body itself has linked the marching issue to outstanding and unresolved political
matters.

It links the marching issue to locally elected political institutions, including local councils – a
number of which have proven track records of discrimination.

By making these linkages, the Review Body has opened a doorway for those who wish to
turn the marching issue into a major political football - where political expediency will take
precedence over valid human rights concerns.

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[GRRC/LOCC: Joint Submission to Working Party on Parading Issues.
19th February 2010

There is also concern at the Review Body’s attempt to downgrade “the right to freedom from
sectarian harassment”.

We do not believe that this Report has brought forward any suitable or viable alternative to
the concept of an independent Parades Commission.

Instead, we see only potential for political interference and manipulation within each of the
various strands of bureaucracy it proposes.

We fear that the majority of proposals will lead to a pre-1998 situation, re-ignite past
tensions and create future inter-communal unrest during the “marching season”.

As for the current Parades Commission (which is the third such body), it is obvious that
political manipulation lies at the core of its present difficulties. The corruption by Peter Hain
and the NIO of the appointments process led to a two-year legal battle which culminated in
the House of Lords earlier this year upholding the residents’ case that those appointments
were indeed biased and unlawful.

Questions still remain over the integrity of this Commission’s own internal processes which
for two years failed to recognise or properly handle the resultant major conflicts of
interests.

Leaving those facts aside, we wish to make it clear that we fully support the concept of a
Parades Commission – but it must be a Commission which is completely independent and
free from political interference at all levels, commencing with the appointments process
itself; one that is open and transparent in its dealings with everyone; and one which does
not second its staff from government departments, including the NIO.

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[GRRC/LOCC: Joint Submission to Working Party on Parading Issues.
19th February 2010

Obviously, this Review did not start from the same premise of seeking to enhance the
Commission’s independence, to free it from political manipulation or improve its
effectiveness.

Seven years ago, the Quigley Review of parades was created following a side-deal at Weston
Park between the British government and unionists opposed to restrictions on loyal order
marches. The report and recommendations from that Review now gather dust on some
shelf within the NIO.

The report from this Strategic Review Body should be consigned to a similar fate without
delay.

19th February 2010