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No change at Parades Commission 'frustrates' Orange Order chiefs

By Steven Alexander

Published 23/11/2016

James Brokenshire
James Brokenshire

The Orange Order has described a series of re-appointments to the Parades Commission by the Secretary of State as “nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic”.

A spokesman said the institution “notes with deep frustration” the announcement by James Brokenshire that he would phase in a new process of staggered appointments to the Parades Commission over the next three years.

In the meantime, the Conservative MP announced that five commissioners would serve a further term in office of up to three years.

Mr Brokenshire said they would be reviewed in a year’s time to take account of his new strategy for individual appointments.

The Order said: “While the commissioners have over the years made some illogical, stupid and unjust decisions, including rewarding dissident violence; their reappointment amounts to nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

“The real problem is the legislative framework they operate within.

“Mr Brokenshire’s statement offers no hope that the current debacle will be replaced with fair and equitable legislation.

“It ignores the wishes of the leadership of unionism, all of whom have stated that the current legislation is not fit for purpose, underscoring that politics has failed the Orange family in respect of creating a level playing field for parading.”

Last month, parades dominated the first formal talks at Stormont House between senior Orangemen and Mr Brokenshire since the MP assumed his role earlier this year.

The Orange leadership urged the Secretary of State to grasp the opportunity offered by the recent resolution of the parades dispute in north Belfast.

Permission for the contentious procession past the nationalist Ardoyne area was granted after a historic deal between the loyal orders and nationalist residents’ group the Crumlin Ardoyne Residents’ Association.

“The recent resolutions to parades were in spite of the Parades Commission, not because of them. Indeed, their existence hindered solutions,” yesterday’s statement from Schomberg House said.

“Sadly, like his predecessors, Mr Brokenshire, was not only unresponsive to what he heard, but has introduced a three-year plan for appointments to the commission, indicating in his plans it is here to stay.

“In a public challenge to the Secretary of State, we would ask him to name one government appointed body in the United Kingdom which is less accountable than the Parades Commission? It is a body, which lacks transparency, and whose decisions cannot be challenged in court.”

Mr Brokenshire said he welcomed the recent reduction in tensions around parades “which is due to the efforts of so many on all sides”.

“I continue to believe that wherever possible, disputes over individual parades are best settled by local dialogue and accommodation,” he added.

“I want to ensure there is a measure of continuity over the coming years at the same time as being able to refresh the membership of the commission.

“I have reappointed the existing commissioners for up to three years, but I expect to discuss individual appointment periods with each of them in a year’s time as I seek to phase in new members.

“This will enable me to move to a system of staggered appointments in future years.”

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