48 – “Parades, Protests and Human Rights: The Quigley Review”
Monday, 7th April, 2003
St. Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan, Co. Meath
Philip Black (LOL 44, Lurgan; Co-Chair of Ulster Human Rights Watch)
Austen Morgan (Barrister at Law)
Dr. Michael Hamilton (Research Student, University of Ulster)
Brice Dickson (Chief Commissioner, NI Human Rights Commission)
Chaired by Lt. General Gerry McMahon (retd.)
(Former Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Chair of the Irish Peace and Reconciliation Platform)
Introduction: Lt. Gen. Gerry McMahon
Questions and comments
Lt General Gerry McMahon (Retd): “Thank you … … I’m an old retired guy and I’m delighted to be asked to come here tonight and to act in the capacity of Chair. This evening’s session is devoted to the subject of Parading Disputes and Human Rights – the Quigley Report. Now the Quigley Report was presented to the Secretary of State by its author, Sir George Quigley, CBE, in September of last year. It’s a review of the Parades Commission since it was set up and how it has operated, and it also includes a review of the legislation which underpins it.
Quigley Report – main recommendations: “In summary … in a non-legalistic, simplistic way, I would like to just say that the Quigley Report came up with three options:
Option 1: let the present Commission continue on its way and over a period of time gradually guide the protagonists towards local accommodation.
Option 2 was more brisk. It said: ban contentious parades for at least the foreseeable future, but of course it did point out that this was a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Option 3: and the third option proposed an overhaul of the current arrangements and the existing regulatory machinery underpinning it.
“Now Quigley took option three – overhaul – and he came up with some proposals . He saw an initial facilitation function in the solving of disputes by those in contention at local level, a facilitation function at that local level. A determining body separate from the chief facilitator to make decisions on issues unresolved at local level, by local contact, but with feed-in from the facilitator. And then he gives instruction that the determination be clear and unambiguous. Now I’m virtually surrounded by lawyers up at this table to night, and they’re wonderful people, but for a simple person like me “clear and unambiguous” and making a legal statement that covers all the options, can sometimes be mutually exclusive, but I’m sure they’ll give me a bash when they get on to that side. The final suggestion or proposal was the use of the European Convention on Human Rights to simplify the current underpinning legislation rather than what exists.
“The discussion tonight is very timely, given the Bush, Blair and Ahern meeting tomorrow and what might follow … the May elections and the approaching marching season … commencing at Easter and running through until September.
“The rules of procedure that I will follow tonight will be that each of our four speakers – I will introduce them to you before they start to speak – has been allocated 10 to 15 minutes to get their message across. I will get fidgety about 12 minutes in and when they’ve a minute to run I’ll warn them. At the end of the four presentations we’ll take a question and answer session and, depending on how fast and furious the questions are coming, I might take them in threes or fours or whatever and then invite members of the panel as appropriate to comment. The last function in these introductory remarks would be to give the running order of the speakers. The first speaker tonight will be Philip Black. The second speaker, Austen Morgan, the third speaker, Michael Hamilton, and the fourth speaker, Brice Dickson.
“The first speaker is Mr Philip Black – Philip is a former councillor for Craigavon, he’s a lifelong member of Loyal Orange Lodge 44 in Lurgan. He has family connections to the Order which can be traced back five generations. He was a member of the deputation of the loyal orders who met the Secretary of State recently on the Quigley Report, which is the centre of our discussion today, and he is co-chairman of Ulster Human Rights Watch. I would like you to give a welcome to Philip Black.
1. Philip Black (member of LOL 44, Lurgan, and Co-Chair, Ulster Human Rights Watch) [replacing Cllr. Nelson McCausland who was unable to attend]
“Thank you Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen. As you probably know and realise, in any democratic society worth its salt, the basic human rights enjoyed and ensured for the people, include freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly and the right to manifest and express one’s religion. The Orange Institution supports those principles, indeed we could do no other as our own Constitution says “civil and religious liberties for all, with special privileges for none”. In fact we are probably the first human rights organisation in Northern Ireland, predating those “Johnny come-latelys” in the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission by several hundred years.
Increase in contentious parades: “In Northern Ireland, the fundamental rights I refer to have been under sustained attack over the past ten years, both by the government through its legislation and its appeasement of violence, and by Sinn Fein/IRA which has adopted a strategy which targets the loyal orders in order to deny them their basic human rights and to increase tension. Don’t forget the statement of Adams when he said that Drumcree “didn’t happen by accident” but was the result of very careful planning on their behalf. The success of this strategy in creating tension and denying human rights can be seen in the way the number of contentious parades has increased over the past ten years. In 1992, there were less than 10 contentious parades. In 1997, following the introduction of Mr Adams’ strategy, there were approximately 20. Following the implementation of the North Report, which was supposed to solve or at least improve the situation, the number of contentious parades climbed to 220. I can tell you that if Quigley is implemented in its present form there is the potential for every parade to become contentious that is, the total figure could rise to over 3,000. The government legislation has so far not dealt with the parading issue in a manner which either upholds the right of freedom of assembly or reduces tension. In fact exactly the opposite has been the effect.
Human Rights Commission: “Now we must ask: how has the body charged with the responsibility for promoting and maintaining our human rights in Northern Ireland dealt with this sustained attack on basic human rights? I’m talking of course about the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, and we’re honoured to have Professor Dickson here tonight. Here I have the document Making a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland which was produced by the Commission, I think it was in 2001, September or October. And the parades issue was, in the words of Professor Dickson himself, one of the more contentious areas. Indeed it was one of the special circumstances of Northern Ireland which the Commission was tasked to address in its mandate from the government. So how many pages of the 158 of this document, do you think, was devoted to the freedom of assembly issue? Well we turn to page ….78. There we see it. Out of 158 pages we have from here to here [indicates portion of document] on this very important and vital issue for Northern Ireland. They did try to bolster their rather meagre offering by referring to an external report – I think it was produced by yourself, Michael, was it? – Parades, Protests and Policing – which is a very good report as a source of information on these matters, but which came to no definite conclusions. So the human rights body which is responsible for protecting our human rights has, in a cowardly and disgraceful fashion, avoided this issue and abdicated its responsibilities.
“As an aside, I may say that this is not the only central and vital issue to the people of Northern Ireland which they have ignored. We have had a campaign of terrorism for 30 years in which over 3,000 people have been killed. Many have been maimed and tortured and it’s still ongoing. Yet do you know what word is not mentioned in this document which is supposed to be to protect our human rights? The word “terrorist” or “terrorism” is not mentioned, or, if I put it another way, for Professor Dickson terrorism would seem to be “the love that dare not speak its name”.
North Report: “Anyway we’re currently left with the North Report as the predecessor of Quigley to dictate policy on freedom of assembly with no effective human rights oversight or watchdog. The current legislation based on North never had the democratic support of the public in general, or the loyal orders in particular, and has failed to address the principles or problems surrounding this issue. And the setting up of the Quigley review process was of course itself an admission by the government of the abject and miserable failure of North and the Parades Commission.
Quigley Report: “Some – one or two isolated individuals – within our Order have suggested that Quigley should be supported but because North and the Parades Commission were so bad that anything would be better than North. I don’t need to tell an intelligent audience like this, that that conclusion does not follow logically from the premise. However, even a very quick look at Quigley shows that not only has he repeated some of the basic flaws of North, but he has gone further in restricting basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Four-stage process: “The Quigley Review Report is ambiguous and unclear in its analysis and recommendations, perhaps intentionally, like the Belfast Agreement itself. But, through the murk, we can discern a four-stage or quadruple lock system which is designed to make it difficult and costly to exercise the basic human right of peaceful assembly and designed to afford the maximum opportunity to those who would wish to deny this right. Those who wish to exercise the right have to succeed at each stage of the four-stage process. Those who wish to prevent you exercising your right, or wish to dilute it, have only to be successful at one of those stages. Now a right is something that by definition should be easy to assert and enjoy. If it is made too difficult to exercise your right then it is by definition no longer a right. Quigley has debased the right and turned it into something that has to be fought and struggled for. Under Quigley the right of freedom of peaceful assembly, ceases to be a right in any real sense or by the normal definition of the word.
“Looking at the first stage will give you some idea of what I mean, at least I hope it will. First of all you’ve to notify every parade you wish to have in the following year by the first of October in the previous year. You are then expected to enter into a lengthy period of negotiation – several months perhaps – with residents’ groups who will no doubt be fronted in many cases by supporters of terrorism. You can only move to the next stage of the process if you either come to an agreement with those whose aim is to deny your rights, which will inevitably reduce and debase the exercise of the right, or, if not, you require a certificate to be issued to say that you negotiated in good faith. Or, if it is not issued, then your right is completely obliterated at this point. There are then further stages where you have to defend your right in a court-like system. Then your rights may be negated by violent protest. And finally, when the parade takes place – if it ever does – a further opportunity for protestors to object and perhaps ensure that the parade is banned or further restricted in future years.
Final nail in the coffin: “I think you can understand why, if Quigley is implemented in its present form, it is seen by many as the final nail in the coffin for the principle of freedom of peaceful assembly, and as a means to target and destroy the culture, tradition and religious freedoms of the loyal orders, and therefore of the Protestant ethos in Northern Ireland. And of course it should be noted that up to date the guardian of our human rights in Northern Ireland – the Human Rights Commission, and its Chief Commissioner, who is the white knight in shining armour whom we would expect to charge to our rescue – has supported Quigley’s proposals with only slight reservations.
“But all is not lost. The Quigley Report has had the effect of uniting the main loyal orders, and indeed a large proportion of the pro-Union people of Northern Ireland, in opposition to this blatant denial of their human rights. Indeed Quigley is the latest of a long line of insults to democracy and human rights which have taken place within the framework of the Belfast Agreement, and some would say, could be the last straw for the long-suffering majority in Northern Ireland and could even be the issue to bring down the Agreement.
Proposals of the loyal orders: “The loyal orders’ leadership, who have always taken a constructive and positive approach to these matters, have recently had an important meeting with the Secretary of State and his advisers emphasising the serious repercussions of Quigley in its present form on the overall peace and stability for the future of Northern Ireland. They emphasised to the Secretary of State their willingness to work together towards a real and meaningful solution, a solution which will uphold and respect the rights of all of the people of Northern Ireland.
“They stressed the need to extend the window of opportunity in the consultation process, in order to get the freedom of assembly issue right this time, and not to rush to repeat the mistakes of the past. They also emphasised that it would take more than lip-service paid to the principles of human rights, but will require the government to be courageous enough to end the appeasement of those who would use violence, or the threat of violence, for their own political ends in Northern Ireland. The Order has made very positive proposals to the Secretary of State to work together for the benefit of all the people of Northern Ireland.
“In conclusion, I would say that we look forward to this opportunity being grasped by the government with a positive response on their part. We look forward to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission awaking to their responsibilities or, if I could put it differently, Brice, “Awake from thy slumber, Oh why art thou silent, O voice of they heart?” [laughter]
“And we look to those democrats both North and South of the border – including yourselves – for support for the basic right of freedom of peaceful assembly, and to the day when parades in Northern Ireland are as uncontentious and unopposed as the yearly parades in Rossnowlagh in Co. Donegal. Thank you very much.“
Chair: Lt. General MacMahon:
“Ladies and gentlemen, our next speaker is Austen Morgan. His background is in law, in academe and he’s an author. He practices as a barrister in London and Belfast. He was educated at Bristol and Queen’s and he’s taught at Queens University, Trinity College Dublin and Warwick University. He has written extensively on working class politics and on political biographies …. and he was involved professionally in the Belfast Agreement on which he has written a practical legal analysis. I would like you to welcome Austen. Thank you.”
2. Austen Morgan (Barrister at Law):
“Thank you very much, General. I don’t normally allow those things to be disclosed. I am professionally a lawyer and I try to begin and end as a lawyer and only speak as a lawyer. I do acknowledge that I had a previous incarnation when I did something very unlawyerly. It is slightly embarrassing to have my past brought back.
:Anyway, when I was told that the Chief of Staff of the Army of the Irish Republic would be chairing this session, I was slightly apprehensive as to who was the occupant of that current position. It was a great pleasure when I found out that I am dealing with the only army of the Irish Republic that is recognised by the Constitution and, being a lawyer, I believe in behaving constitutionally, so I am very indebted and honoured to be disciplined this evening by a former Chief of Staff of the only army of the Irish Republic!
Interest in the parading issue: “I want to speak on this issue, not because I have any personal background in it. As I enjoy telling meetings of Orangemen and Orangewomen, I lack a certain qualification if I ever aspire to membership, and sometimes that sends them into difficulty about what I’m referring to. Sylvia Hermon was once at a meeting I was addressing made up of Orangemen and Orangewomen, and one of the women said: “what does he mean, what does he mean?” and Sylvia Hermon said “he’s too young to join”! At least that’s one theory as to why I’m not eligible to join. However I do have a professional interest in this, not just because human rights has been the most important theme for practical lawyers in the last two years. I do human rights literally every day. It is an uphill struggle but I do human rights. Anyway, for one reason or another, I have for a number of years taken an interest in the parading issue in Northern Ireland.
“Now I want to talk very briefly about four topics:
The first is the British Constitution, and what King William and Queen Mary was all about and how that is still with us.
The second is Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights which is now the law in Northern Ireland but not yet in the Republic formally.
The third thing I want to talk about is: what would I say to the loyal orders, of whom Philip is an eminent member, what advice would I give as a lawyer?
The fourth thing I want to talk about is Quigley.
British Constitution and Bill of Rights 1688: “In order to try and understand the loyal orders as an outsider – which I am – does require a reading of 17th century English, Scottish and Irish history. There is a Bill of Rights in the United Kingdom State. It dates from 1688/89 and that Bill of Rights talks about the liberty of the liberties and the freedoms of the subject. Now that Bill of Rights is what today lives in the minds of the members of the loyal orders. You might say “it’s over 300 years old”, but in constitutional history a document that’s over 300 years old tends to have proved itself by surviving. So when the loyal orders talk about these ancient rights they really believe in them, and therefore one can see why Philip is indignant about the failure of government in Northern Ireland to accept and indeed respect those rights. The problem about those rights is that they were never really specified, certainly not in Magna Carta, certainly not subsequently. There is an idea that an individual has rights except where government decides to restrict those rights for some reason or other. So one has a large bag of rights, except where Parliament takes them away, and one is entitled as an individual to enjoy one’s rights except where that right conflicts with someone else’s rights. Now that has to be understood and accepted – not just as our constitutional history in the United Kingdom – but it has to be understood as part of the consciousness, the ideology, of the loyal orders in Northern Ireland.
Peaceful assembly: “In terms of peaceful assembly, which is the only right I’m interested in – I’m not interested in the right to assembly in order to ferment a riot, I’m only interested in the right to peaceful assembly – the UK hasn’t been particularly exemplary about recognising that right. The approach to parades throughout the UK has essentially been one of public order: “well, you can have your demonstration but if it’s going to cost trouble, we’re going to stop it”. That’s been the general view. Now that is a public order view, and a public order view has been much more prominent in Northern Ireland than it was in England, Wales or Scotland.
Article 11 of ECHR: “However – and this is my second point, Article 11 – in the year 2000, human rights entered into force within the UK. The European Convention on Human Rights acquired an additional effect within domestic law. Now what does article 11 say? Well, I have a copy of it here….Article 11 (1) says: “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly”. To a lawyer, that is a beautiful piece of legal prose. “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly”.
Restrictions on right of peaceful assembly: “Then in Article 11(2) it goes on to qualify that, but it begins by saying: “no restriction shall be placed on the exercise of this right” – the presumption is that the right should be enjoyed rather than restricted – other than “such as are prescribed by law”, in other words, the restriction has to be lawful. But I here I get slightly complicated as a lawyer. There is a principle of legality which would constrain even Parliament from, in a sense, denying people the right to enjoy a fundamental right. The restrictions also have to be necessary in a democratic society – that’s another limitation – and essentially, before the State denies someone a right, they have to have a good reason to do it, and the way they’re doing it has to be, essentially, not a sledge hammer designed to crack a nut. It has to be what is now called “proportionate”. And then there are particular reasons why the right to peaceful assembly can be denied. There are four of them:
1. The first one is “national security or public safety”. Now national security and public safety are different. I cannot imagine a demonstration threatening national security. I can imagine a demonstration, in certain circumstances, threatening public safety.
2. “For the prevention of disorder or crime”. Well that’s probably quite a low threshold, because surely some disorder may well result from a demonstration.
3. The third reason given is “health and morals” which never really is litigated in our courts, except – I should add in parentheses – when it comes to computer pornography.
4. Fourthly, “for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”.
Now that’s what the debate in Northern Ireland has been about – the rights and freedoms of others. And essentially the argument has been that the loyal orders have an Article 11 right to peaceful assembly, and then some people – and I shan’t mention Brice Dickson by name – said “ah, but other people have got other rights” and when we balance those two rights, the other right always wins. Well that’s what it feels like appearing before the judges I appeared before in London. They always do seem to have the law rigged, and it always seems to be rigged against my clients. That is not just a vulgarisation of the law, that’s a complete distortion of the law. The issue is between the loyal orders and the State, and it’s not between one group of citizens and another group of citizens. In fact, when it comes to the argument between those who wish to peacefully assemble and those others who wish to stop them, for whatever reason, the law says the emphasis should be on those who wish to peacefully assemble.
Advice to the loyal orders: “The third point I want to lay before you by way of introduction is: what would I say to the loyal orders? Well, the loyal orders may well not want to listen to me, and I wouldn’t particularly blame them for that. But at one point a few years ago I did write 10 things that they should do, and I’ll just briefly list each one of them to give you a sort of conspectus on my view on this problem.
“The first is that they should actually learn from their own best practice, because what is actually noticeable is the way the three different orders in different parts of Northern Ireland are actually handling this question, and there are extreme differences. For example, the Apprentice Boys of Derry have pursued one strategy which has produced results for them. At the other extreme, the Orangemen of Portadown have pursued another strategy, or rather a number of strategies, and as yet, and I suspect for some time, they will continue to be unsuccessful. Now there is a third trouble spot that I’d like to refer to and that’s the Lower Ormeau in Belfast, and I might come back to that later on if someone asks me a question as to why I think the Lower Ormeau is particularly significant.
“Anyway my ten points are briefly as follows.
The first one is: the loyal orders should look to where they’re achieving something and try and follow that example rather than look to where they’re not achieving something.
The second thing is that they should see the Human Rights Act, which came into force in 2000, as theirs as well as everybody else’s.
The third thing is that they should have actually taken the phrase “Freedom of Peaceful Assembly” and proclaimed it from the housetops in the year 2000. And I would have liked them not to have used 17th century rhetoric, I would have preferred 21st century rhetoric, so “public place” rather than “Queen’s Highway”.
The fourth thing is that they should have engaged with the Parades Commission. I still think they should engage with the Parades Commission for however long the Parades commission will survive legally.
The fifth thing – and they have done this – they should actually analyse the problem they face. Namely, it is a problem of the residents’ groups – and Sinn Fein has a big role in that, though there may well be a problem of residents’ groups that are, shall we say, autonomous, in other words not entirely under the control of the republican leadership.
My sixth point is that they should have engaged from 1998 with the Northern Ireland Office much more actively than they did. In 1998 I said: “look, the legislation on parades will be out of date when human rights come on stream”. Now that is what Quigley is now saying, but it has been out of date for a number of years.
The seventh thing – and Brice will be surprised at this – they should have engaged with the Human Rights commission. Now, I’ve never said anything good about the Human Rights Commission and I’m not going to change my position tonight – I will endorse everything that Philip has said in the most friendly way about Brice and the antics of his colleagues.
The eighth thing is that the loyal orders have a problem created by the residents groups, and whinging and complaining is one way to deal with the problem. The other way is to formulate a strategy and try and out-intelligence people who actually are not very intelligent, or not very formidable, but are able to win with very little human skill.
The ninth thing is that there isn’t just an Article 11 issue here about peaceful assembly, there’s also an Article 9 issue here about “freedom of thought, conscience and religion”. In fact there are a number of other rights involved, and I think it would have been better for the Orange Order to have – if you like – got out of politics and gone into religion, culture and everything else, the whole hog, and then sought political allies to defend their freedom of peaceful assembly.
Tenth – and the Orange Order itself did in fact take a little bit of this message on board – they actually needed advisors to help them. Now there’s nothing wrong in having advisors. The President of the United States has advisors – he doesn’t actually run the world single-handedly. He does need people to help him out, and the Orange Order could have done with a bit of help in the last few years.
Quigley Report: “My last point is about Quigley and here I dissent in a ….
Philip Black: “friendly sort of way?”
Austen Morgan: “I was going to say in a Presbyterian sort of way! I dissent most strongly from what Philip said about Quigley. I couldn’t believe Quigley. I couldn’t believe how good it was. First of all, where did Quigley come from? Well Quigley was conceived at Weston Park which might have suggested a rather sickly child would be born, or a rather ugly child would be born, given some of the other outturns from Weston Park! But Quigley was the only thing David Trimble has succeeded in winning in the last number of years. He succeeded in limiting the damage on many other fronts but Quigley is the only thing David Trimble has actually achieved.
What Quigley did. “Quigley learned the lesson from these horrible type inquiries – one is called Patten, and the other is called the Criminal Justice Review. These things are insults to one’s intelligence, they are policy abominations, but they are what the British government felt it had to do in order to solve the problem of Northern Ireland. Quigley’s different. Its well written, it’s got a strange style, why he took 300 pages to say what he could have said in 30 pages I don’t know. Well actually I do know the answer to that question: it’s because he’s playing leap politics like everybody else in Northern Ireland who is trying to be a key player. But I like Quigley, and I don’t just like Quigley because I recommended one thing to him which other people recommended to him, and we all think that Quigley has accepted our advice. Now I don’t think Quigley has accepted my advice, because he didn’t accept one key idea I put to him.
Parades Commission: “But he did accept my advice in the sense that, I believe the Parades Commission is damaged goods. The Parades Commission exists to stop the Drumcree Parade. It’s done it five years in a row. And it’ll do it six years in a row, and forever long it exists it will continue to stop the Drumcree Parade, and that’s very sad because I don’t think the Parades Commission set out to find itself in that position, but it’s in that position. And because it’s done that successfully my worry is that the Parades Commission has a great friend in the Irish Government, and also has a great friend among the two main parties of Northern nationalism. So Philip might be delighted to hear this: I’m not so confident that Quigley is ever going to get up on his knees let alone stand up walk and run. I can see a very serious campaign to preserve the Parades Commission so it can continue to do what it knows best.
Why do I like Quigley? I like Quigley because it’s practical and I like Quigley because it’s different from a room of wise men who decide who marches and who doesn’t march, and they decide this in secret. And what it does say is: instead of one body we’re going to have two bodies, and the first body can do the facilitation and mediation stuff, which is necessary, and the other body can do the determination stuff which is who marches and who doesn’t march and where and when. But they will do it in an accountable way and they will do it in public. In other words, I’m a lawyer and I’m talking about what I know best which is a court.
Parades tribunal: “And I proposed to Quigley that we need a parades tribunal, and he’s come back with something that’s got five words in the title, but, lo and behold, it’s a parades tribunal! Now you might well conclude that I would think that courts were the best things in the world, because I’m a lawyer and there’s a professional opportunity for me. But I’ll just give you a couple of analogies: I think that children should be looked after by their parents, but, when their parents are not willing or able or anything else, then somebody has to step in, and after the social workers have not been entirely helpful, and after all the neighbours have not been entirely helpful, we end up with the courts, the bottom line. Another example: employment. We used to believe that relations between workers and employers were private economic relations. Now that is heavily regulated in the Republic and in the UK. Thirdly, an area I know quite a lot about, immigration, well there are some people who say: “anybody who wants to come into the United Kingdom is entitled to come to the United Kingdom”. There are other people who will say: “well, we’ll let in the good ones and we’ll not let in the bad ones.” Well, somebody has to decide who the good ones are, and who the bad ones are, so again a court is the way to do it. So a court is not simply something a lawyer advocates out of economic self-interest. A court is something a lawyer advocates out of despair of any other solution working, it becomes the only one that does work, and the good thing about a court is accountability, transparency and reason. ”
Chair (Lt. General McMahon): “I would like to thank, on your behalf, Philip and Austen for presenting a perspective, or indeed shades of a perspective, on this issue, and I will now switch to my left hand side and introduce the first of two speakers. I should thank Philip and Austen in that Philip came in two minutes under, and Austen came in three minutes over, so you won’t be here all night!
“I’m moving on. The first speaker is Michael Hamilton: again a legal background – currently at the School of law, University of Ulster. He’s lectured widely on human rights law and parades and the theories of public order. He’s closely followed the work of the Parades Commission and is a founder member of the working group on freedom of assembly. I would ask you to welcome Michael Hamilton.”
3. Dr. Michael Hamilton (Research Student, University of Ulster):
“Thank you very much. I must admit I’m feeling slightly confused ….unless I’m mistaken the council of war is in Hillsborough, not down here! And I think what is slightly unfortunate in the debate we’ve had so far is that the focus has been more on the Human Rights Commission, and that the Parades Commission, which was the thrust behind Quigley’s recommendations, has got off somewhat lightly. So I’d like to couch my remarks more in terms of the recommendations that Quigley has made and the implications of those for the Parades Commission. As has been said, Quigley arose out of the Weston Park Talks and that has in many ways coloured the responses to the Quigley Report because Quigley was perceived – and accurately perceived – to be a concession, as Austen has said, to David Trimble and to Unionism.
Reviews of the Parades Commission: “Before I go any further, I should say that the Quigley Review was actually the third review of the Parades Commission within the last three and a half years. We had, first of all, the Northern Ireland Office review which came to very little, then a review conducted by the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee, and then the Quigley Review. And this constant state of being under review has, I think, presented difficulties of its own because it’s led some people to persuade themselves that the Parades Commission is something of a lame duck: that it’s about to be put down, and that therefore there’s no point in engaging with it.
Assessing progress: “I’d like to begin really by asking the question: how do you measure the success of the Parades Commission? How do you gauge whether the parades issue has moved forward at all? …(tape break) … … A survey was conducted in the early part of 2001 on attitudes to the Parades Commission, and that survey revealed that 35% of Catholics and 8% of Protestants felt that the Commission had improved the situation – not a great number – with 50% of Protestants and 14% of Catholics believing that the Parades Commission had actually made the situation worse. You could also look at the number of parades that are held every year, the number of parades that are deemed contentious every year, but if you look at those over the last few years, as Philip pointed out, the numbers did increase significantly once the Parades Commission was instituted. But that, to my mind, comes down more to how you define what is a contentious parade. If you look at the numbers over the last five years, there’s very little to be gained in terms of determining a trend or an overall improvement in the situation.
“Another way to assess progress would be to look at the cost of policing, or to look at the average number of man-hours worked by the police overtime during July. And if you look at those figures over the last three years there is a slight downward trend, which would suggest that things may be improving. Nonetheless, the Chief Constable last year said that it would cost £6.5 million to put police officers and equipment along the route of contested parades. So, by any assessment, the issue isn’t solved.
Quigley Report: “Moving onto the Quigley Report itself, undoubtedly one of its greatest weaknesses is its very complexity, and it would be impossible in – I thought I was going to have 20 minutes – but in 12 minutes to outline all the recommendations of Quigley, let alone comment on all the recommendations. So I’ll try and concentrate on Quigley’s main criticisms of the current arrangements, and say something about his recommendations as I go along. Philip has actually summarised the process of what Quigley recommends quite well. I’ve done a diagram which tries to put in one page the process that Quigley recommends [see appendix].
“First of all he suggested there should be an extension of the notification period for parades from the current 28 days to 6 months. And, after a parade has been notified, then, under his proposals, objections to the parade have to be registered within a month.
Then what happens is what Quigley calls one of his new bodies, the Parades Facilitation Agency, which might be regarded by some as an unfortunate choice of name. The Parades Facilitation Agency which, even under Quigley, would draw largely from the current Parades Commission Authorised Officers, but which is entirely separate from the adjudicatory body – and I’ll say a bit more about the arguments between separating the adjudication and the mediation functions in a moment or two. But that body begins a period of facilitation and it is hoped that will get underway at least 5 months before the parade is due to take place.
What I think actually Quigley does is he overstates the quiescence of the Parades Commission as it currently works, because the Authorised Officers at the moment don’t wait until a parade is notified before they go and talk to the various parties. And so the reason that Quigley extends the notification period to 6 months doesn’t, I think, stand up itself.
“Then what happens is that a report from the Chief Facilitation Officer goes to the adjudicatory panel – and Philip mentioned that in securing the rights that are so often talked about it seems that the loyal orders are the ones having to jump through all these hoops, and yet the residents only have to jump through one or succeed at one stage. In actual fact, this Chief Facilitation Officer’s report requires both parties to demonstrate their good faith efforts to engage, or at least, if it’s not direct engagement, to have been involved in the facilitation process and to participate in a manner designed to resolve the issues.
“Then, as Austen has highlighted, if no agreement is reached there’s an open hearing – and Austen alluded to the fact that this was more of a court-like setting. This openness is something which I think Quigley has got exactly right. While I wouldn’t be very keen at all for it to go down a very legalistic route, provide jobs for lawyers, even though the Quigley Review has recommended the chief commissioner be appointed by the Lord Chancellor, it does offer a more open and transparent way of dealing with the issues. And at that open hearing the police would have a role to comment and answer questions, because both the parties would be obliged to present their case at this hearing.
“The determination of the Rights Panel, which is what Quigley calls the adjudicatory body, would be issued 28 days before the parade is due to take place, which can be contrasted with the current arrangement where it’s 5 working days and sometimes less. And then it would be 14 days for a protest to be notified, and after that the police could restrict the parade further on public order grounds – I’ll come back to that in just a moment.
Local accommodation: “One of the main points I want to make about Quigley is that – and Philip’s right about this – he doesn’t depart at all from the policy which has underpinned the Parades Commission. He doesn’t depart from the North recommendation that, first of all, all efforts should be channelled into achieving local accommodation, and the determination should only be issued as a last resort, and if agreement isn’t reached between the parties.
What Quigley has got right: “The second point I want to make – and a general point about Quigley – is that overall I do agree with Quigley’s diagnosis of the problems with the weaknesses in the current set-up. What I don’t agree with are a number of his recommendations. As I said already, I think his ideas on transparency are exactly right. What he says about the Commission’s boiler-plated determinations and their indecipherability is absolutely right. What he says about the need to develop risk assessment skills, to develop stewarding, and about broadening the remit of the adjudicatory body, not just to include parades but to enable it to also take decisions on protests. Those are all things which I think Quigley has got right.
Difficulties with Quigley: “But I do have difficulty with the separate structures that he creates: this Rights Panel and the Parades Facilitation Agency, and, in particular, the difficulty with the role he ascribes to the police.
Criteria for determinations: “Under the Public Processions Act – the current legislation – the Parades Commission have to consider 5 criteria when they’re arriving at their determination: 1) the impact of the parade on community relations, 2) the potential for public disorder, 3) the potential for disruption, 4) the compliance of the paraders with the Code of Conduct, and, 5) the desirability of allowing a parade customarily held along a particular route to continue to be held along that route. All Quigley does is that he recommends that those criteria be dropped and replaced by the 4 criteria, in a sense, that come from Article 11(2) of the European Convention, which Austen has already outlined.
Article 11 criteria: “So what you would have now, in place of those 5 criteria, are:
Public order and public safety, and I would put those two more of a likeness rather than the public safety and national security.
The impact of a parade on relationships within the community, or, sorry that’s wrong: the impact of the parade on the rights and freedoms of others.
Thirdly, the impact on health and morals which isn’t likely to raise itself.
And, fourthly, the national security grounds.
“And I think that Quigley’s absolutely right in recommending this change because at the moment what you have are two sets of criteria which aren’t always easy to align with one another and it leads to confusion. Ultimately the Parades Commission has to act in a way which is compatible with the European Convention. So it makes sense, as Quigley has concluded, that the criteria be modelled purely on the European Convention rights.
“And I could say a lot more about the implications of that – the fact that we will lose the impact on community relations criteria, and we’ll lose the traditionality criteria, but I don’t have time to do that, maybe in questions we might. So Quigley’s right to recommend the changes to the criteria.
Guidelines Document: “He’s also right, I think, to suggest that the Commission’s guidelines – the Commission’s required to produce three statutory documents, one of those being a guidelines document which explains how the Commission will interpret the statutory criteria – and this is where I think that some of the confusion arises about the role of the Human Rights Commission in clarifying a possible Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, how the rights might be interpreted. To my mind the best way of clarifying how the different rights – and Philip’s absolutely right: in all the determinations that the [Parades] Commission issues, the Commission does simply pay lip-service to a whole host of rights: Article 8, the right to privacy, Article 1 of Protocol 1, the right to peaceful enjoyment of one’s possessions, sometimes even Article 2, the right to life. And the Parades Commission hasn’t yet clarified how exactly it interprets those different rights, and, rather than that being done in a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, to my mind the best place for that to be done and worked out is in the guidelines document which the Parades Commission itself produces.
“And the Commission has recently funded a working group which the Human Rights Commission and the Parades Commission had observers sitting on. It was run under the auspices of Democratic Dialogue. We had lengthy discussions about how the different rights should be interpreted in the particular context of Northern Ireland.
Separation of facilitation and adjudication: “I’ll move swiftly on, because time is quickly running out, to talk about the facilitation function which Quigley talks about. The question of the relationship between the adjudicatory function and the mediation function of the Parades Commission is one of the most vexed issues – it’s one that I arrive at one conclusion today and possibly if you ask me again tomorrow, I’d have swung quite the other way. But what Quigley recommends is that the only link between the facilitation function – which is the mediation and other such efforts – and the adjudicatory function, would be this report from the Chief Facilitation Officer, and that is only a report which says whether or not the parties have agreed, and the extent to which they have tried to find a solution in good faith. The report crucially doesn’t say anything about the substance of any dialogue which might have taken place – whether it’s been shuttle dialogue or direct dialogue – and the problem with this idea is that Quigley tries to separate the two functions. The reason which is always suggested for separating the functions is that because the mediation, the Authorised Officers of the Commission, report to the Commission at the moment, the only reason that people might get involved in the mediation process is because they want to carry favour with the adjudicatory body. It’s kind of a box–ticking exercise. So by separating the two functions you take away at least that motivation for getting involved in the mediation process. And it also means that, if the Parades Commission were to come out with a determination which upset one or other of the parties, if the two processes were separate that would have less potential to undermine any ongoing mediation process.
Conversely, the arguments for keeping the two processes linked are that, unless there’s a link between the two processes, parties have no incentive to get involved in mediation. And while it’s a somewhat perverse argument it actually does reflect the situation. And what I think that Quigley has done is that he hasn’t gone really down either one of these two routes because of the Chief Facilitation Officer reports, and he hasn’t gone for separation, he hasn’t gone for continued linkage in the way that we have at the moment. And what he does, I think, is sow the seeds of misconception which he says himself he’s trying to dispel.
Reactions to Quigley: “I want to just come back to the question I started with at the beginning when I asked how you evaluate progress of the Parades Commission. I said that reactions to Quigley have largely been coloured by the fact that it came out of Weston Park, and the Orange Order have had an ambivalent reaction to it. On their website their first comment was “it’s an important step in the right direction”, and they congratulated Quigley on his implicit finding that the Parades Commission has failed. Quigley doesn’t say the Parades Commission has failed. From the nationalist perspective, there’s been a very strong knee-jerk reaction which has, in a sense, been very critical of Quigley, and again I suggest that’s largely because of where it came from. Mark Durkan for example said that the recommendations were “totally unacceptable, ill-conceived and unworkable”, and what I’d like to suggest is that neither of those reactions is particularly helpful.
We were talking about progress. Neither too are the statistics particularly helpful. Frank Wright once commented, when he was characterising the relationships in the North as being about communal deterrence. He said that “deterrence does not gradually melt into trust despite there being periods without overt violence”. So, even though parades aren’t getting the same front page headlines they once were, I would suggest that this would caution all those working to resolve parade disputes against complacency.
“There are important things which Quigley does recommend which can be taken forward and which can improve the situation. But, given that the recommendations have now been put back until 2005 by the Northern Ireland Office, there are equally important measures that need to be taken by the Parades Commission in this two-year stay of execution if you like. Thank you.”
Chair: “Ladies and gentlemen, our final speaker tonight is Brice Dickson, currently Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. His background is legal and academic… He’s published extensively on the legal system of Northern Ireland, on comparative law and human rights. He’s author of a book on the European Convention on Human Rights and contributed a Northern Ireland chapter to the UK text Human Rights Law and Practice. I would ask you to welcome Brice.”
4. Brice Dickson (Chief Commissioner, NI Human Rights Commission):
“Thank you very much, Chairman, and can I thank the Meath Peace Group for the invitation to be here again. This is not my first visit, and I’m very pleased to be back and I’d like to congratulate the group on all the very fine work it does.
Human Rights Commission: “I will be short. I think I will not take my 10 minutes, largely because I’m grateful to Michael for his returning us to the actual recommendations of the Quigley Report and away from the rhetorical presentations we had from Philip and Austen. I heard very much the same from a colleague of Philip’s, and from Austen himself, when all of us were at a conference organised by the Orange Order about this time last year. I’m sorry to say that I’m still hearing the misrepresentations of the Human Rights Commission today that I heard then. The Human Rights Commission promotes and protects the rights of everyone in Northern Ireland without fear or favour.
“We are not cowardly, we do not act in a disgraceful way, Philip. We are not lovers of terrorism, and that is the kind of language which costs lives in Northern Ireland.”
Philip Black: “Sorry, that was a [unclear] reference, I don’t know if you picked it up?”
Brice Dickson: “I might have misheard you.”
Chair: “I would prefer if the discussion could take place, perhaps we’ll interweave it with the questions.
Philip Black: “My apologies.”
Brice Dickson: “The Human Rights Commission is against violence. We all of us on the Commission are against violence. We work hard to reduce the amount of violence in Northern Ireland. The Bill of Rights document we issued was a bona fide attempt to do what we were required to do under the Northern Ireland Act and the Good Friday Agreement.
European Convention on Human Rights: “As Austen has reminded us, the European convention on Human Rights is part of our law in Northern Ireland, unfortunately not yet in the Republic – the only country in Europe where it is not yet part of the law – and the starting point therefore in all of this must be Article 11 of the European Convention. In the analysis that was done for the Human Rights Commission of the way in which the European Court has applied Article 11 – done by Michael and other colleagues – very useful information was supplied on the principles which the judges in Strasbourg have used. We in the Human Rights Commission endorsed that analysis, and one reason why we think we’re justified in endorsing that analysis, and in saying that Article 11 should be the test and is the test that is currently applied in Northern Ireland, is that all the challenges to the courts in Northern Ireland against determinations by the Parades commission have, to my knowledge, failed. If the Parades Commission is doing a bad job, if the European Convention standard is being misapplied, if Article 11(2) is being distorted, then no judge in Northern Ireland has been persuaded to that. And Austen may think it’s just an accident that when he and others put those arguments to the judges they disagree. It may be that they disagree because you, Austen, are wrong. It may be that the law is on the judges’ side and that they are applying it properly.
Human Rights Commission response to Quigley Report: “To return to the particular recommendations of Quigley, the Human Rights Commission has not yet made its formal response to Quigley. We will be doing so in the next couple of weeks, and therefore anything I say should not be taken as a definitive representation of what we’re going to be submitting to Quigley.
Facilitation and determination: “But it is likely that we are going to say that it is a good idea to separate the facilitation function from the determination function, partly for the reasons that Michael has given.
Notification period: “It’s likely we’re going to say that to require people who are organising marches to give notice of doing so 6 months ahead of time is both unrealistic and unnecessary.
Protests against marches: “It’s likely that we’re going to say that it’s good that the facilitation and determination agencies should look at protests against marches as well as at marches themselves, provided of course that leaves open the possibility for spontaneous protests against other things that might be happening in society, such as the war in Iraq at the moment.
Transparency: “It’s likely we’re going to say that it is good that there would be greater transparency in the work of the facilitation agency and determination agency. Copies of all objections to protests are going to be made available to the organisers of the procession, and can therefore be scrutinised in a more effective way than at the moment. It is possible to argue – and I said this last year at the Orange Order event – that the current system denies the organisers of processions the proper right under Article 6 of the European Convention to challenge the objections being made to those marches.
Duration of determinations: “It’s likely that the Human Rights Commission is going to say that the determination agency should not be making determinations for as long a period as 5 years. Things have changed very quickly in Northern Ireland and to try to concretise or finalise things for as long a period as 5 years is, I think we’re going to say, inappropriate.
Promotion of greater understanding: “The Human Rights Commission has already said that the Parades Commission has not done enough, as it is required to do under statute, to promote greater understanding of issues concerning public processions amongst the general public. So we’d like more of that outreach work to be done, and, insofar as the facilitation agency will achieve that that would be a good thing.
No right not to be offended: “We are going to emphasise – as we have done and as I have done on many occasions – the fact that there is no right not to be offended. People cannot legitimately stop a march by saying that the march would offend them. When you live in a democracy you expect to be offended, that is the essence of a democracy. There must be views that offend you. Once those views, of protests or marches or whatever they, are spill over into violence, or incitement to violence or hatred, then the law can legitimately step in to curb the speech or the march. And that’s the position of the Human Rights Commission.
Right to respect for honour and recognition of dignity: “There is one proposal in the Quigley report that hasn’t yet been mentioned tonight, and that is that Article 11, by replacing the criteria which Michael went through in section 8(6) of the Public Processions Act, Article 11 should be supplemented by a provision saying that “in the exercise of their right to freedom of peaceful assembly all have a right”, or the law should say that all have a right, “to have their honour respected and their dignity recognised” and that they must themselves “respect the honour and recognise the dignity of others”. Now the Human Rights Commission is currently discussing that, and I think it’s fair to say there is disagreement within the Commission as to whether we should endorse that or not. Personally, I would endorse that, because the whole concept to me of human rights is based on the fundamental principles of honour, and respect for honour and dignity. And it’s only when we get those values embedded in our society in Northern Ireland that we’ll be able to move forward in a way that allows us to live harmoniously, or at least more harmoniously together.
Record of Human Rights Commission: “I’m going to stop there, Chairman, but I would just like to emphasise the point that it’s easy to knock a body like the Human Rights Commission. It’s easy to pick one aspect of its work and say that shows that it’s completely out of order or doing a terrible job. I would submit – I would say this wouldn’t I, given my position? – I would submit that any objective analysis of what the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has done over the last four years – for we have been up and running four years unlike the Commission in this part of the island which has only been up and running for a matter of months – that all we’ve done has been unbiased, has been done in good faith and has been done in accordance with the international standards on human rights. Thank you.”
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS [SUMMARIES ONLY]
Chair (Lt. General McMahon): “Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank the four speakers on your behalf, and thank them doubly for keeping to the time constraints because military people are always hung up on time, so you’ll have to bear with me, that’s my cross.
“I would move on now to the question and answer session and discussion. I would like to indicate to you how I intend to run this: I will ask for questions from the floor, I will ask if any of you wish to ask a question in a certain area. I would then ask if anybody else, who was about to ask almost the same question – one in the same general area – if you’ll come in at that stage as well. So I can take them in threes and fours. Otherwise, we could be here all night. The mike will be removed from me and will go around so again I would ask you to use the mike. Some of us are a bit deaf! And I would also ask that we would have no speeches. We have spoken tonight about the rights of others, we’ve had four speakers, so just the question please. And finally, on the matter of introducing yourself before you ask the question, or remaining anonymous, I don’t care, whatever you want. So I would open the floor now to questions…”
Q. 1. “I would like to thank the panel for a tremendous display here tonight of knowledge. But I’d just like to put one point. I’m up from the country, and I travel the country a lot, they say when you have to go to law, and you have to go through the rigours of the courts and interrogation, you’ve already substantially lost the battle. And I ‘d just make a point, perspectives and realities, and the harsh interface of history, creates a lot of problems for all sorts of reasons. And I’d just like to bring in Saint Patrick, frozen and starved on the hill of Slemish, and one hundred years after he came, we were in the Dark Ages of Europe… [tape unclear] I would just like to ask the panel ….. if love is not generated in a society in a collective capacity… if that doesn’t happen, if that isn’t manifested in a generosity of spirit, surely we’re heading into more difficult times, which maybe the present times don’t allow. I’d like to ask the panel, on that particular element, bearing in mind that we’re entitled to Christian healing, could we not explore the possibilities from this side of the equation? Thank you very much indeed.”
Chair: “Thank you. We had another questioner here but unless it’s in the same area, I’ll take you in a moment. Is there anybody else who would like to ask a question in that general area?”
Q. 2. Roger Bradley (member of Education Committee, Grand Orange Lodge): “I was very interested in what that gentleman behind me had to say. First of all, may I introduce myself. I’m Roger Bradley, and probably I’m the only other Orangeman that’s in the room. Any others raise your hand please! [laughter] I belong to a lodge called The Cross of St. Patrick, and I was quite taken by the reference to St. Patrick that was made behind me. We are devoted to cherishing the memory of St. Patrick, and to try to follow his teachings that are recorded in his own writings, and if you haven’t read the Confessio or the Letter to the soldiers of Coroticus, I’d recommend you do that, it is entirely biblical. But I was also interested in four words that Professor Dickson actually made reference to: offence, honour, dignity and respect. I’d like to give a simple example and ask a question: in what way can my honour and my dignity and my respect be afforded, and in what way can I not cause offence? … The example is quite simple, and it’s a recent example. My lodge, the Cross of St. Patrick, wanted to hold a church service in Saul Memorial Church. The Cross of St. Patrick was dedicated in Saul Memorial Church in 1968. It’s our spiritual home, if you like. It’s where we return to, we have been banned from that church. We’re not wanting to hold a parade. My lodge is a small lodge, under 20 members. I visited Saul Memorial Church last Sunday afternoon to remind myself of what the lie of the land was like. It’s very rural, it sits in a copse on Saul hill. If my lodge were inside the grounds of the church, I don’t think anybody would see us, never mind even know we were there. But as a lodge, I am being deprived of what I regard as my birthright – to go to my spiritual home, where my lodge was actually dedicated. The church has not permitted us to hold a service in the church, and that may be their right to do that. That may be the right of the select vestry to do that, I don’t challenge that.
But the question is: how can I have my dignity and my honour respected, and am I causing offence? Thank you very much.”
Chair: “We had one other question in that area I thought…at the very back.
Q. 3. James McGeever (Cavan): “The Decree on Religious Freedom of Vatican II suggested that the right to religious freedom should be recognised as a human right, and in that regard I’d like if Philip could confirm if the Portadown Orangemen consider that when they’re parading are they giving witness to their cross and faith, and are they giving witness to their determination to defend it? Because, if the answer is “yes”, it seems to me that the Declaration on Religious Freedom of Vatican 11 would defend the right to march unhindered along the Garvaghy Road. If I could read out the relevant section ….
Chair: “How long will it take? … Could we cut it to thirty seconds, please?
James McGeever: “Yes. ‘All men should be immune from coercion on the part of individuals, social groups… and every human power so that, within due limits, no one is forced to act against his convictions, nor prevented from acting according to his convictions, in religious matters, in private or in public, alone or in association with others’, and the only precondition that I can see there is the responsibility for the church requirements to be honoured….”
Chair: “Thank you very much. Anybody else in that general area? We have had three questions and three mini statements. They were in the area of Christianity, which we all share, I think, dignity, respect for one another, not giving offence. That basket of questions which are very thought-provoking. I would ask the panel perhaps to comment briefly, starting with Philip.
Philip Black: “Well, the questions that have been asked, particularly the last one, really raise a very important principle. And we haven’t really talked tonight about Article 9 of the European Convention, which is the right to manifest one’s religion, which sounds almost the same as what the Vatican II statement from the Pope said, and I appreciate that and respect it. When the Order goes out to parade, especially, and more so when it is a church parade, for example like the Drumcree church parade, they are going out to manifest and to protest their Protestant religion. They’re carrying banners which carry the Christian message, which carry biblical scenes, which carry quotations from the Bible. Now it is perhaps a slightly different flavour of Christianity than that from most of the people in this room. But it’s still Christianity, and I would have thought that in a Christian country, as we would claim to be both in Northern Ireland and south of the border, that should be respected without let or hindrance. When the brethren wish to, they go to their church service and they then wish to return from it along the main route which they have always gone down. Their banners carry no offence to anyone and certainly not to anyone who is a Christian. They parade with one accordion band with little girls, and they play hymn tunes, and that cannot be seen, as far as I see it, as an offence to anyone. And it is really sad to think that in a Christian country there are those who would oppose that peaceful manifestation of one’s religion and wish to prevent it.
“Sadly, there are people like that, I’m sure there aren’t any in this room tonight but until we have dealt with that problem and we have engendered an atmosphere of tolerance for the views of others, that Professor Dickson has been talking about, then we’re not going to move forward very fast. But we must work at engendering that respect, and that’s certainly what we endeavour to do in the Orange Order, and certainly we endeavour to do in the other organisation I’m in which is the Ulster Human Rights Watch.”
Chair: “Austen, would you like to comment in the general area?
Austen Morgan: “I’ll pass because by the time I get round trying to explain how little I know about these issues, I’ll have wasted a lot of time!”
Michael Hamilton: “Thank you General. I’d like to go back just to the way the initial question was phrased, to say that ‘by the stage we go to law, we’ve lost the battle’. And I think that’s exactly right. In a sense, that’s the premise on which the Parades Commission was founded and it’s only to intervene as a last resort. The legal intervention only comes in when we have, in a sense, lost the battle. And it brings the question round to what is the purpose of human rights? And we do get a lot of human rights talk, whether it’s the 17th century rhetoric or its more 21st century less rhetoric, we do get a lot of it in Northern Ireland. And my answer to the question is really that the purpose of human rights is, as Brice has said, to secure the respect and the dignity of the human being. What human rights do though, are only a minimal standard. They fall far short of the love, the Christian love, that people are talking about, and I think that’s perhaps the most important aspect of the clause that Brice had read out of the Quigley Report, in terms of securing honour, respect and dignity, what it also says in the second half of the sentence is that those asking for their dignity and honour to be respected must themselves respect the honour and recognise the dignity of others. So it’s a mutual recognition. And what human rights can do in that struggle for recognition, if you like, is to provide a floor, but by no means should human rights be regarded as a ceiling.”
Brice Dickson: “Just to endorse that, chairman. I think it was Martin Luther King who said that the law can punish us for hating people or taking steps that lead to violence, but it can’t force us to love one another. That, as Michael said, has to be a spiritual thing. I don’t know the details of your case Roger, concerning Saul. The church being a private institution can decide of itself whether to allow any march or –
Roger Bradley: “I’ve accepted that …It wasn’t going to be a parade. We were just going to have a service. We’re only 20 in numbers…. It’s a small church…”
Brice Dickson: “But are you saying that the Parades Commission denied you the right to march to the church?”
Roger Bradley: “No, it’s the church”
Brice Dickson: “Well, even private institutions can be caught in a way by the Human Rights Act, as we know. The newspaper industry has, I’m glad to say, been caught by the Human Rights Act, so potentially there would be a case there. If you want to bring it to us, we’ll have a look there for you.”
Roger Bradley: “I might take you up on that”.
Chair: “We had a question from the back which was not in the area that we’ve just covered, so I’ll give you an opportunity.”
Q.4 John Feighery. “My name is John Feighery. I’d like firstly to congratulate the Meath Peace Group for bringing such excellent speakers and I thank them for coming such a distance. My question is particularly directed to Philip Black and it is more in the area of psychology than either law or politics. I think that we’d all agree that there is an absolute right, in principle, to parade in favour of your beliefs, or religion, or whatever. And I was very disturbed by what he said about the fact that when this became an issue – that it was politically contentious – there was a great increase in the number of such parades …..
“Now, my question really relates to the whole phenomenon of parades, because, unless I’m greatly mistaken this is a relatively unique characterisation of Northern Ireland. I’ll give you an example of a where I’m coming from. As a Christian, I frankly would not care very much … if the St. Patrick’s Day parade became an issue in contention, whether in Ireland or abroad, I would think it’s not worth it, honouring the saint, honouring the national day, to allow division and hatred and maybe chaos. And speaking even more specifically – and I’m a Catholic priest – I would not believe that it was worth the candle, the incense, the banners, if, in the name of religion, I encouraged a parade or a procession which was causing sectarian strife. I would simply say the time has passed, it’s not appropriate.
“Now what I would like Mr. Black to explain to us is: why it is so important in the loyalist tradition to continue with parades? Because I think that, while obviously political liberty, religious liberty must be defended and must be expressed, can this not be done in a more private way, in schools, in political organisations? Even at a more personal level, in clubs, in houses, in football matches?
“Why is it so important to proceed along a public way knowing that you are going to pass through areas where you will not be welcome? Now I respect Mr. Black’s convictions but I don’t share his psychology and I would like him to explain.”
Chair: “Any more questions in that general area? Roger, perhaps, as the only other Orangeman in the company tonight, you would come in as well, but there were two or three others with questions in the same area, please.”
Q. 5. Anne McQuillan. “My name is Anne McQuillan, I’m a member of the SDLP, actually I’m the constituency chair for Fermanagh /South Tyrone. …… I made a few notes before I came and since I’ve been here … so here’s number one …. Are the Protestant ethos and the Orange Order synonymous? Also, if it’s a religious order, as you proclaim, why can any member sit by rights on the Ulster Unionist Council? And Professor [Brice Dickson], I’d like to say to you that I think you do very good work and I know that your Human Rights Commission is very much underfunded. Now we have had this problem in our village of Newtownbutler in Co. Fermanagh, and it seems to me that it comes down to this: why can they not talk, why can the two sides not talk together? I’ve been involved in the discussions every year, and every year mediation groups come and do a very good job, meet the two groups separately, but the Orange Order will not meet the residents’ groups, and it seems to me that an awful lot of trouble and an awful lot of money could be saved if they would. It also seems to me that the present [Parades] Commission does a perfectly good job without having to employ fairly expensive judges and so forth. But again I’ll come back to it and it seems to me the crux of the matter, if the two parties would meet face to face and would explain their objections to one another, this thing could be settled without the trouble that it causes …”
Chair: “Anybody else in that general area? We’re in the area of parades, religion, Protestant ethos, and we’ve gone a little bit in “Why don’t the two sides talk?”
Q. 6. Marie MacSweeney. “My name is Marie MacSweeney. I belong to a small but growing minority in this country. To put it into context: I think it’s not just about Catholic or Protestant. I am a theologically educated convinced unbeliever, and my feelings and my sensibilities are hardly ever taken into account in any part of this island … I have two questions, one is for Professor Dickson. You talked about challenging objections ……so I was just wondering in what way do you see this happening? …….To challenge the objections, especially those of the bussed-in people whose feelings are hurt? How can they be challenged?
“The second question is for Austen Morgan To put it into context: the first speaker talked about the Quigley Report being ambiguous. But I put it to him that, for very many people who look at the Orange marches with as much openness as possible, they appear to be ambiguous. I see them as sometimes as religious rights asserted in a public way, at other times they appear to be political rights asserted under the cover of religion. I’d like to ask Austen Morgan, when he made his recommendations, I think it was the ninth or tenth recommendation you mentioned … you said that you recommended that the Orange Order eschew politics entirely …….I just wanted to see how that recommendation was received. Thank You.”
Q. 7: Mick McCarthy. “My name is Mick McCarthy from Co. Cork. Just on the issue of parades. Down in Cork, watching the ‘Troubles’ develop, we saw what we thought was a sort of territorial and pseudo-tribalism often accompanied by louts and all sorts of criminal types fuelled often by drink and drugs, whatever about religious convictions and beliefs. And I’d just like to say one thing. I’ve often discussed it down in Cork, it’s a very scenic area, and people have often said…. that if people agreed to a peaceful, orderly and respectful parade of rights, it’s a lovely part of the world, we would invite anyone down and they could have a parade …because the thing seems to be locking tighter and becoming more intense and wearing people and communities down with all sorts of external agendas…..”
Q. 8: Rev. John Clarke, Rector of Navan. “My name is Canon John Clarke, Church of Ireland Navan union of parishes. In relation to the first question that came in this particular batch, in relation to parades to church services. They may be very much a part of the ethos of Protestantism in Northern Ireland. I live right here in the Republic of Ireland and it’s probably dangerous to speak on matters in other parts, but, with the exception of Kilmore diocese as a young boy, I was never at a service where there was an Orange aspect to that service. I recall one occasion being at one, when I was probably 4 or 5. I remember the sashes in the front row. Apart from that, I have served my entire ministry I the Church of Ireland and I have never found a need to profess my faith through the Orange Order. I see it as no consequence whatsoever to the faith that I profess, I see it as no consequence to the Church of Ireland. It may be to Protestantism in Northern Ireland. I can’t see that it is much similar here ….. It certainly plays no part, no part whatsoever, in the faith I profess, and it’s nothing got to do with the Church of Ireland as far as I’m concerned.”
Chair: “Thank you very much. I will offer that basket of questions to the panel, plus Roger if he would like to come in, and I’ll start with Philip.
Philip Black: “Thank you Mr. Chairman. I think your method of basketing the questions together, and a chairman’s job is very difficult, but it does mean by the time I’ve listened to the last question, I’ve practically forgotten what the first one said. But to the gentleman over there, who said “why do we have to parade?” Well I would say to him: I don’t tell you how to practice or manifest your religion and I would expect you to give the same respect to myself. And if there is discord which arises out of a peaceful religious parade, then we must look at those who are caught in the discord, and if it’s not the paraders who are causing it, then in any properly run democratic society it should be those who are causing the trouble and who are attacking the parade who are dealt with. That should not be, violence should not be something which should stop people peacefully going about their business.
Newtownbutler: “There was a lady from Newtownbutler, a very good example, because in Newtownbutler over the past few years because of violence, or the threat of violence, the orders in Newtownbutler have been permitted to walk to church but they have not been permitted to walk back again. That was until the Sunday before the Twelfth when a parade did get going back from church, a very reasonable thing in any society you might think. At that parade there was violence, there were death threats to those who were parading, there were things thrown at the paraders. There were remarks which I won’t repeat here like “go on, you Orange b…s, and other less savoury remarks. Two of the people in the parade had been intimidated out of Newtownbutler by the IRA. They received verbal death threats in that parade. Now I don’t think that’s a very savoury state of affairs, but look at the aftermath. Two weeks later, or three weeks later, there was an exactly similar parade – the first one had been the Orange Order, the second was the Black Institution – but it was comprising more or less the same people and again it was a parade to church. And the parade back was banned by the Parades Commission. And It was banned because of the violence which had taken place, which had not come from the paraders but had come from those who had opposed the parade in a violent way. This is so contrary to normal justice or toleration that I really don’t think anybody could defend that.
“You did talk about “why can’t we talk to those who oppose us?” In Newtownbutler we have the Newtownbutler Area Residents Association. They call it the Area Residents Association because most of the people do not come from Newtownbutler itself, so that they have to talk about the Newtownbutler area. But the residents’ association has Sinn Féin in it. Despite all of this, shuttle mediation went on all last year up until coming up to the July period, actually through the Revd Brian Crowe [an authorised officer of the Parades Commission], because the loyal orders would not talk directly to these people. And I have a record of that negotiation because we were called in and, although the orders don’t go to the Parades Commission, under my hat – the Ulster Human Rights Watch – I went to the Parades Commission and also Brian Crowe. But the record of that negotiation was that it appeared that the people on the residents’ group were not interested in real negotiation. Each time an issue was put up and it was dealt with by the loyal orders they brought up another issue and another, and when they’d exhausted those they went back to the start. Now that’s one of the practical reasons why negotiation does not succeed with people who have no wish to make it succeed, and who only want to use that negotiation in order to deny you your rights, and in fact it’s one of the basic flaws. I know that Austen here is a – I won’t say a Quigley groupie – but he sees such merit in the Quigley Report. But that is one of the basic flaws which is carried on from North: that people who want to peacefully protest, who have not offered any violence, are expected to negotiate with those who are, in many cases, supporters of terrorism, and who, if they do not get their way, will attack the parade as they did in Newtownbutler. So that’s a semi-answer, not perhaps a very full answer about talks.
Protestant ethos: “Whether the Orange Order is identical with the Protestant ethos, well, all I can say on that one is that within the Orange Order we have a full spectrum of Protestant society in Northern Ireland both in socio/economic terms and in terms of religion. I have been in a lodge where I have sat down with country farmers and with others, and also with another gentleman who happened to be a millionaire, and I would say a multi-millionaire, and it would really impress you if – perhaps for obvious reasons like Austen you could not be at that lodge meeting – but to see the equality and respect for each other that goes on within that where a multi-millionaire is treated the same as others, and what I really started to say was that in a sense the Orange Order certainly does stand for the whole Protestant population, both in terms of rich and poor and both in terms of Protestant religion. Because you will find within it Free Presbyterians, Church of Ireland, Baptist, the whole spectrum. So in that sense the Orange Order perhaps does express the whole Protestant ethos within itself. Well, Canon John Clarke may have found no need or no relevance to the practice of his religion to be in the Orange Order. All I can say is that there are other people who do and find it a comfort, religiously inspiring and bringing themselves closer to God, and I don’t think he should deny that to others simply because he has seen no requirement for it himself. I tried to deal with all the questions, Mr. Chairman, but I may have left one or two out. “
Chair: “I think you’ve covered them more than adequately. Certainly I had them listed and you’ve hit every ball thrown in your direction…”
Anne McQuillan: “… He didn’t answer the question about the Ulster Unionist Council, that the Orangemen have a right to be on the Council.”
Philip Black: “It’s strange you should say that because we were discussing it as we came down in the car. And maybe I should leave that one to Roger if you want to deal with it.”
Chair: “I’m going to move now to Roger who is outside the panel but I appreciate very much that he has given us of his time.”
Roger Bradley: “I’ll answer this gentleman over here first of all and then I will go on to your question at the end. Well, basically we don’t set out to walk through republican areas. That’s not what we’re about. We parade because it’s our tradition, and it’s a tradition which we cherish. I’m struck that at Rossnowlagh where the Orange parade takes place it is met or supervised by two gardai at the front and maybe two at the back and that is the sum total of the security force or policing force that is required to supervise the parade. It’s easier to parade in the Republic and seemingly it doesn’t cause offence to anybody. It only seems to be in Northern Ireland that it causes offence, and I would maintain that it causes offence because it is a manufactured offence that has been created by Sinn Féin and I think that is fairly obvious to everybody. I am also struck by people who I work with – Roman Catholics I work with – who tell me “when I was a child my parents used to take me to see the parades”. So obviously in years gone by it didn’t cause offence especially when Roman Catholics were quite prominent in going to observe the parades and seemed to enjoy them. So why should that be the case 30 years ago or more but it’s not the case now? So that’s a matter of observation. It’s also interesting to note that, especially in rural areas, there was a great deal of cooperation between members of the Hibernians and members of the Orange, farmers who’d assist their Orange neighbours to attend the Twelfth July. And on the fifteenth of August the reverse was the case.
Neighbourliness: “So why has everything gone wrong? Well, I would submit that the reason why everything has gone wrong is because in this country, which is supposed to be a Christian country – and certainly in Northern Ireland there are more churches, mission halls, chapels per square mile than probably any other country in the world – but we have forgotten how to treat each other as neighbours. We have forgotten how to be neighbourly to each other, and if we learned to be neighbourly to each other we then wouldn’t have the problem that we currently have. And that is fundamentally a Christian principle. It is a Christian principle to be neighbourly. Therefore if you have routes that are unneighbourly, therefore they’re unchristian, I would suggest to you, maybe that’s something that our two clergymen in the audience might want to address. So how do we learn how to actually become neighbourly? The parading issue or problem is not an Orange Order problem, it’s not a Roman Catholic problem, it’s a societal problem. And it’s a problem because we’ve forgotten how to be neighbours and it’s as simple as that in my view.
Orange delegates on UUC: “I‘ll come to the point now about Orange delegates, I speak as an ex-Orange delegate – I am no longer an Orange delegate – from my own personal point of view, I favour the link be broken. Simply because within the Orange Order there are members of more than one political party, and I believe that the Order should seek to have an influence in all of the parties not just one. Does that answer your question?
Anne McQuillan: “Yes.”
Chair: “Could I ask Austen to come in – he had one or two demi-questions pitched in his direction.”
Austen Morgan: “Well yes, I was asked one question and I will answer it. But I want to make five points in brief.
Socially pathological society: “The first one is that the parades issue is a serious issue and it’s related to what is happening in Northern Ireland. And it remains my view that that is a place that is socially pathological. It is a society with a major problem, and the problem is not necessarily getting better. In fact I increasingly find myself using the rhetoric of tribalism and it’s a phrase a lot of commentators use about Northern Ireland, they talk about the “two tribes”. And that’s not pejorative or patronising, it’s critical. So I kept the parades issue separate from all the other stuff and only recognised a few of the connections like Weston Park, but nevertheless, it’s a symptom of a wider Northern Ireland problem and I believe that you deal with problems one by one, you recognise that they’re all inter-related.
Generosity of spirit: “The second point is the rhetoric used by one of the first speakers in the audience which was ‘generosity of spirit’. Well that’s actually a slogan of my own and all I have to say from my own personal view is: I would love if tomorrow the Garvaghy Road residents said, either face to face or across the airwaves, “we’re going to drop our objections to the Drumcree parade”, and then I would love it if the Portadown Orangemen, in a reciprocal spirit, said “well, in that case, actually we don’t want to march next year”. I would love that to happen, that’s the sort of society I’d like to live in, but I don’t actually believe it is going to happen and I don’t believe that mediation is going to get you to that solution. I do believe that a form of public regulation is the only way, and the fact that one is talking about a rather complicated from of public regulation is a degree of the measure of what the problem is about: parades in the context of a socially pathological society.
Underdogs: “The third thing is that I have no great familiarity – I did, Roger, attend Orange Order parades as a kid, and I didn’t think they were mine but I didn’t think they were anything other than well, what’s this interesting thing coming down the street? So you know part of your mythology is correct in that sense, in that I knew what they were, they weren’t mine but they were there and they didn’t offend me. The loyal orders are most definitely underdogs in terms of the system of government that Northern Ireland has. Most certainly the underdogs, and my instincts always go out to the underdogs.
Orange Order should choose to leave the UUP: “My fourth point is the answer to Marie’s question about the advice. Well, when I was in an elevated position enough to speak to the Grand Master of the Orange Order on a specific point, it was pretty obvious that the Orange Order is about Protestantism or about a version of Protestantism, and I thought as a lawyer looking at human rights that they should use not just Article 11 but Articles 9, 10 and 11 [ECHR] and that they should increasingly see themselves as a religious and a cultural and a social fraternal organisation. Now that did mean getting out of politics, and so that’s why I said the Orange Order of it’s own motion should choose to leave the Ulster Unionist party, as opposed to being kicked out of it, which would be the David Trimble view. And then, once they were out of politics, they should approach all parties – including the nationalist parties – about their religious rights. Now that is the advice I am giving from a medium distance, and it still is the advice I am giving, and I gave it knowing precisely that there were people like you two making the same point from a different position as it were. I mean it seems to me silly that there are DUP people sitting in the UUP. That just seems absurd, just as it’s silly that there used to be communists sitting in the Labour Party through the trade unions. That’s just silly.
Co-existence: “My last point is I live in London and it is wonderfully multi-cultural, it’s wonderfully multi-national and we don’t talk a lot about rights and the things that irk us continue to irk us but we don’t have a Northern Ireland response to them. Yes, we have problems in London but we do find co-existence … … So what I’m saying is that I’m not seeking to impose a London solution on Northern Ireland. But there are many different ways of existing, and Northern Ireland is a very strange form of co-existence, whether it’s in the form of sectarian violence or whether it’s in the form of peaceful co-existence or whatever. I cannot stress too much how much of a mad place I do think it is. Almost anybody who has anything to do with it ends up looking or sounding mad at the end of the day, and madness is not a congenital condition that one has to be condemned for. Madness is a condition that is perfectly treatable.”
Chair: “Thank you very much. Michael, would you care to come in?”
Michael Hamilton: “Yes, none of the questions was directed to me, but I do have a couple of points. I’ll go back to the question of ‘why don’t the parties just talk?’ It’s a position that I would have a great deal of sympathy with. I do think that much of the violence could be avoided if everybody did sit down and talk. I also think that very often people are quick to criticise the Parades Commission for failing to resolve it when they themselves don’t turn every stone in their efforts to try and resolve the disputes. At the same time, if parties don’t want to talk I don’t think that they should be forced to talk, and I don’t think that the enforced talk would necessarily bring about the resolution that we’re looking for. And I think there are other ways of going about it which don’t necessarily bring in direct engagement. One of the focuses of the Parades Commission’s time in office in a sense, which Quigley recommends should be more so, is the behaviour associated with parades – the question of stewarding, of ensuring that flags and emblems that are flown, tunes that are played, are not done in an intimidatory way. I mean it strikes me as well – and this sounds critical of the loyal orders – it’s not critical point blank because there are a lot of church parades that go ahead which don’t pose any threat, they are innocuous and inoffensive and that is, I think, accepted a lot more widely than sometimes recognised. But there seems to be this amnesia almost that when people talk about law-breakers, the violence doesn’t always come from so-called residents groups, you only have to look at Drumcree in ‘95 and ‘96 to think of where the threat of violence for overturning the police decision to go down the road came from.
European Court of Human Rights: “And Philip mentioned our report that we did for the Human Rights Commission coming to no conclusion. One of the conclusions that it actually came to was that the European Court, when it looked at this question of whether the determining body should be concerned with the source of disorder when making it’s decision, even the European Court hasn’t been concerned with the source of disorder, and the European Court has been prepared to uphold restrictions and rights even if the threat of violence comes from others. And that’s why I make the point that there is much to be developed – and the Parades Commission is uniquely positioned to do this in Northern Ireland – to maybe move beyond that perhaps inadequate understanding of what’s acceptable and what’s not.
Rights dialogue: “And the final point I just want to come to ties this up in a sense, and it’s what the value of the language of rights can be in a dialogue situation. One of the greatest problems with the Quigley Report, I think, is that he compartmentalises the different discourses. He talks about public order being the preserve of the police, the rights issues being the preserve of the Rights Panel and the mediation aspect being the preserve of the Facilitation Agency. And I think that is a fundamentally flawed way to look at the discourses, if you like, because what needs to happen, to my mind, is that rights have to infuse all the efforts to reach agreement, so a rights dialogue has to be at the centre of engagement between the parties, and it’s only when the rights issues – what are the rights and freedoms of others for example – are talked about between the parties that some of the holes in the European Convention will begin to be filled in. The historian E.P. Thompson once said in relation to the rule of law that it was an unqualified human good, because those governments who adhered to the rule of law became prisoners of their own rhetoric. And in some ways I think the value of rights is that if parties are held to account they then become prisoners of their own rhetoric.”
Brice Dickson: “Again, I would endorse a lot of what Michael has just said. Taking up one of his last points about the role of the police, I think the Human Rights Commission is going to also say that Quigley is wrong in saying that the determination agency should take decisions on restrictions on the right to march but not decisions on the public order aspects of the right to march. Quigley says that should be left to the police. I think we’re going to say that that should be left to the determination agency as well. At the end of the day, if things go wrong the police must step in of course and police the parade as well as they can.
Dealing with objections: “I think there were two particular points made to me chairman, both I think coming from Marie. How to deal with the objectors? How should the determination agency deal with the objections and how should they copy them to the people who want to march? The report itself is a little bit vague to me on this. I don’t know whether Michael has got more out of it than I have, but it talks about the hearing that would take place allowing all the objections to be given to the other side and then all sides would discuss the actual objections. It doesn’t go into detail as to whether the people who made the objections, the identity and addresses of those people, would be revealed or not. Because of course that has been one of the worries in some situations. But I think if there were this hearing and if things were more transparent than they are at the moment, then the bona fides of the objectors can properly be scrutinised.
Newtownbutler: “And I do think – and I agree with Philip as regards the Newtownbutler and the Dunloy example where his group has brought this to our attention. I think there are particular cases where the Parades Commission, putting it at its lowest, has acted strangely in banning a march on the apparent evidence that there would be violence from certain objectors when there is no real evidence that there would have been violence.
But the other point that Marie made, and I would just like to endorse in this context, is that non-believers get a very raw deal in Northern Ireland, to the extent that when 14% of the population in the recent census either did not answer the question about what religion they were, or said that they had no religion, what do the people analysing those figures do? They reallocated all those people to be Protestants or Catholics! It’s ridiculous, totally ridiculous. Despite the fact that that was the biggest increase in any of the categories in that section of the census. To my mind, speaking as a non-believer myself, the sooner we get away from categorising people on the basis of their religion the better.
Chair: “Thank you, Brice. I would like to point out that your guests here tonight at the table have all long journeys ahead. It’s now 10.20, the tea may be overbrewed! What would the general feeling be? Do you think I should bring it to a close or try one more basket? Oh we have a basket of three and that’s all I’ll allow…”
Q. 9. (Dunsany resident). “Just one question. I wasn’t sure if you were agreeing or disagreeing with Quigley’s recommendations to separate the facilitation and determination functions….?”
Q. 10. Robin Bury (Reform group). “My name is Robin Bury…. I have a question about the European Convention on Human Rights. Austen, I think you said it wasn’t recognised in the Irish Constitution?
Austen Morgan: “No I said it was not in Irish law”
Robin Bury: “You mentioned the Irish Human Rights Commission was slow to get up and running, I’m just wondering why? …..”
Q. 11. (Nobber resident). “My question is a general one to the panel. I’m from Northern Ireland originally and I’m living here in the south of Ireland. My background is in sociology and the social sciences. Like Austen I would not exactly come from the Orange Order tradition, and like him marches don’t bother me, I’m quite neutral, but to me it seems it’s a matter of a sociological thing in that I feel that the Orange Order is a unique tradition, it’s unique to Northern Ireland, it’s unique in the island of Ireland, it’s unique in these islands which were formerly known as the British Isles. It’s also unique in Europe. I feel it’s all about education, and I would like to ask the gentlemen: how do they feel that they could they market the Orange Order as such, as a unique culture and identity? How could we get the nationalist population in Northern Ireland to accept it as such? I’d just like to end on a lighter note and say: I have seen Orange marches all my life in Co. Down, I have to say they have great bandsmen, they’ve fabulous uniforms and they’re great marchers, and could we not get our act together and look on them as part of our culture on the island which is now becoming multi-cultural? Thank you.”
Chair: “… Right, I’m going to reverse the order of return this time, and I will also ask Roger if he’d like to come in after Philip. So, first of all Brice.
Brice Dickson: “Thank you, Chairman. When I mentioned the European Convention and Ireland I was simply pointing out that it was the only country of all 44 – I think it is – in Europe not to have incorporated the Convention into its law. I’m not saying that the existing law is necessarily that deficient but I’m just making a general point – the European Convention has not been incorporated, and I would like people in the Republic to put pressure on the government to make sure that that happens as quickly as possible. Likewise, the Irish Human Rights Commission was supposed to have been set up as a result of the Good Friday Agreement. It is no reflection on the people who’ve been appointed to the Commission, I hasten to add, I’m criticising the Irish Government for not putting more effort into setting it up, giving it premises, giving it resources. It has been the poor relation very much in this whole scenario.
Culture and identity. “The point about culture. That reminds me that I should have said when Philip said that our Bill of Rights document has one page on the interests of his organisation, there is of course a whole chapter in the book on rights to express your culture and identity, and we’re very strong on that, and that is an important aspect of what we are recommending.
Gender equality: “We’re also recommending gender equality, and I should have pointed out that we’re supposed to have a policy not to speak on panels where there is no gender mix, so apologies for that from my point of view. We challenged the composition of the Parades Commission on the basis that there is not one woman on it, and when we got into court the judges said “yes, the Commission has to be representative of the community in Northern Ireland”, but that means so many Prods and so many Taigs, it doesn’t mean so many women and so many men. Now, until our judges recognise that there are more dimensions to identity than what religion you are, there’s no hope for Northern Ireland.
Chair: “I would point out, in defending the gender imbalance at the table, that our controller in chief, commander in chief, Julitta, is of course a woman! Right, Michael..”
Michael Hamilton: “Thank you. If I could just concentrate on the one question because I think the question as to how I would sell the Orange Order, for example, is something I think they should be doing themselves…. The question raised about the separation of the facilitation and adjudication functions. At the moment the Parades Commission has 12 authorised officers, and the 12 authorised officers work in teams of two across Northern Ireland. They are responsible for, if you like, going out and being the eyes and ears of the Commission. In a sense that’s not what they were first set up to do because they were meant to be mediating, but in practice very little mediation has actually taken place. But the danger with that arrangement is that people see the authorised officers only as the long arm of the Parades Commission, the adjudicatory body, and that therefore informs their motives for engaging with the authorised officers, so that their motives, as I said, are to curry favour with the Parades Commission rather than to reach resolution of the issue. The alternative – separation of the two functions – would mean that mediation wouldn’t just be a box-ticking exercise, and it could also I think mean that, when a determination comes out from the adjudicatory body that upsets one party or another, that that doesn’t undermine any mediation process which is ongoing. Because there is no link between the two functions. I always err towards the separation of functions, but sometimes when I hear arguments coming other ways I find it very difficult to resist. But, if you want a clear-cut black and white answer, I would vote for the separation.”
Austen Morgan: “In answer to Robin Bury’s point about what was I referring to. Well, it’s the 5th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement this week, and the UK agreed to do quite a lot of things and went ahead and did them, and the Republic of Ireland agreed to do quite a lot of things and it didn’t rush ahead to do them. But we occupy a political culture where the accusations are always made about the dilatory Brits, or the Brits who don’t do what they promised to do.
“By and large they do do what they promise to do only they do it undramatically. And a great deal of criticism could be addressed at the Irish Government for not implementing its bits of the Belfast Agreement, and one of them was that, whatever the level of human rights protection in Northern Ireland was, that would be the level of protection in the Republic of Ireland, which is a pretty rash thing to agree but they did agree to it. And they have attempted to give domestic effect to the European Convention on Human Rights, but it’s been tack-handed and we still aren’t there yet. So, when anybody this week is criticising people for not implementing the Belfast Agreement, I hope there is going to be a section of the document which first of all indicts the Government of the Republic of Ireland for not doing what it promised to do, and then the Government of the Republic of Ireland says what it is going to do and in what timescale. And I hope Sinn Féin will be as interested in getting the Republic to do what it seems to be it’s interested in getting the Brits always to do.
Marketing the Orange Order: “Now the second point I want to make is, how does one market the Orange Order? Well, that is their task and, in fact, credit is due them because some time ago, it might have been 10 years ago, they came up with the concept of “the largest folk festival in Europe”, that’s what the Twelfth of July could work towards being. And that was actually quite clever, it’s quite broad-minded and it’s quite achievable. I mean, in the days when we had Left and Right in politics the French Communist Party used to organise festivals and fetes and take over towns for a day, and, all right it was for the believers in communism who went there, but I mean these were community festivals and there was all sorts of activity and all sorts of people participated. In Germany you have other types of regional movement, again, which are exercising public rights and occupying public space, so “the largest folk festival in Europe” – that was a slogan originated by Martin Smyth – was actually showing how creative the Orange Order could be. Now, the point is, those people who are not in the loyal orders should have immediately responded positively to that and said ‘right, that’s what we want you to do, therefore this is what we’ll do if you organise a folk festival, if the Twelfth is open we’ll come along with our deck chairs and all the rest of it.’ But no, what we had was war on the Garvaghy Road, war in the Lower Ormeau and we had a very serious communal struggle where, in place of what used to be a Protestant hegemonic society there was an attempt by Catholic sectarians to create a new form of Catholic triumphalism by defining territory as Catholic and telling Protestants ‘you’ve got no rights here’. Now that, to any liberal, to any democrat, it should have just raised their anger against the residents’ groups but that’s not what happened. What happened was that the Irish Government rowed in behind the residents’ groups, the British, who were interested in peace in Northern Ireland, decided to put in a Parades Commission. The Parades Commission did the only thing it could do and that’s why we still have a problem. The problem was not solved in the early ‘90s when it arose so it has to be solved in the 2000’s.
And, finally, don’t assume Quigley is in the realm of realpolitik… [tape break]…The Irish Government and Northern nationalists are so attached to the Parades Commission that they will succeed in frustrating Quigley’s very honest and conscientious attempt to move the issue forward.
Philip Black: “I’ll be as brief as I can. Certainly one of the difficulties of the Belfast Agreement is one that Austen has referred to, that while we go ahead hell for leather in implementing its provisions in the North, it was supposed to be a balanced agreement and applied equally to the South. And certainly the Human Rights Commission I understand was originally set up with 11 members, then 9 were replaced by the Taoiseach because he didn’t like them. The first Commissioner resigned, ostensibly on health grounds, and I don’t know to what stage it’s staggered at this particular moment. But I do know that it is required because while the focus is on Northern Ireland, and human rights in Northern Ireland, you do have your human rights problems in the South. I have here a summary of a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. They did a survey of human rights in the South in 1992 and they updated it in 2001. One of their main conclusions was “Ireland has one of the most” – and they mean the Republic of Ireland, they don’t mean Northern Ireland by the way – “Ireland has one of the most unequal societies in Europe, a political system notorious for corruption and croneyism.” Now there are many people in the South and in the North who believe in a united Ireland. Is this the sort of Ireland you’re asking us to come into and participate in?
Marketing the Orange Order: “The question from the lady over there – Austen has already referred to the folk festival and I, well I don’t take exception to her remarks but at certain stages when she was talking about a unique tradition etc., I thought she was going to propose that I be stuffed and put in a museum with an Orange collar over me so that people could come and see me in a glass case, or perhaps we’ll have to embark on a breeding programme to ensure that this unique artefact did not die out! However, I agree on the PR aspect, I mean one thing that I would admit is that we in the Order, and perhaps Protestants generally in the North, are bad at explaining themselves, and bad at saying why they are, and I hope that what Roger and I have come tonight and said to you will have helped you to understand us better.
“But the Orange Order is also a real, living and vital organisation, and particularly a religiously vital organisation, and I wouldn’t want us to be turned simply into some sort of a tourist attraction for the North or the South of Ireland, but I agree that that can and should be a component.”
Chair: “Finally, if I could ask Roger to come in”
Roger Bradley:“Just taking up Nuala’s point – the Orange Order exists not only in Northern Ireland and parts of the Republic and the rest of the UK, but also Canada, America, New Zealand, Australia, Togo and Ghana, it is currently organised in all those areas. In fact, the Grand Orange Lodge in Canada historically by far has been much larger in terms of numbers and everything else than it ever was here. That’s just by the way.
Really diversity of culture is what you are touching on and I would simply add that diversity of culture is a sign of a mature society, and the fact that the Orange Order can be tolerated in its parades in Rossnowlagh is a sign that society, at least in that part of Ireland, is more mature than it is in the part of Ireland that I live in. But we do need to actually grow as a society and mature and gain a bit of self-confidence back and tolerate each other’s culture.
One thing that I will bring home with me is how to be more welcoming? And that’s a valid point and I take that on board.
Lastly, to comment on some matters which Austen touched on. I attended a carnival in Carrickfergus just before last Twelfth, and there was an entire period costume outfit celebration around Carrickfergus Castle which was very much enjoyed by anybody who attended it, and I’m quite sure there were many Roman Catholics there as well as Protestants. It was non-threatening, it was enjoyable, it was a spectacle, it was a beautiful day, a family day and perhaps that is something that we could do more of. And certainly, across the Province, there are re-enactment societies similar to the Civil War re-enactment societies in England. There are re-enactment societies in Northern Ireland. There are ones in Co. Down, in Kilkeel .. and they dress up in period costume for the very purpose of attending events such as the one in Carrickfergus which I described. And that is something which I think could be built on in the future because we can improve the diversity of the culture that we show and that we show to others… Yes, I want to be more welcoming to everybody, and I don’t want to intimidate anybody, and I don’t want people to intimidate me. It’s back to a point I made earlier. I want to be a good neighbour to everybody and I want them to be good neighbours to me.”
Lt. General McMahon: “Ladies and gentlemen, I would propose now to bring matters to a conclusion. A Chair is supposed to stay above the battle. I would like to thank all the participants and you the audience for making my job so easy here tonight. I know I’m not supposed to say anything but it’s something that makes me mad: I’m at a loss to explain why the adoption of European Conventions, why legislation, and various other things is so damn slow in the Republic of Ireland. I’m just at a loss – it’s not just in human rights, it’s right across the board, and I think it’s an absolute disgrace, we should be ashamed of themselves. When I look around for somebody to blame, and I’m aware there’s three of them sitting at the table with me, I think we have an over-legalistic view of things in the Republic which seems to drag everything on ad infinitum. It isn’t just that somebody has said ‘look, let’s slow down this’. It is just a slow system and something needs to move it along. I mean, I will give you an example – we’re the only country in Europe that has refused permission for Amnesty International to visit our prisons! I mean it’s a disgrace. Now, Chairman having sat above on a cloud all night and said nothing, I apologise for the outburst. Let’s have some tea!”
[Editor’s note: biographical notes to be added]
©Meath Peace Group 2003
Meath Peace Group Committee 2003: Julitta and John Clancy, Parsonstown, Batterstown, Dunboyne, Co. Meath; Fr. Michael Kane, An Tobar, Ardbraccan; Canon John Clarke, The Rectory, Navan; Anne Nolan, Slane; John Keaveney, Ratoath; Philomena Boylan-Stewart, Longwood; Olive Kelly, Garlow Cross, Lismullen; Leona Rennicks, Ardbraccan; Catriona Fitzgerald, Warrenstown, Kilcock; Pauline Ryan, Navan