A political row has erupted amid confirmation that the Parades Commission is to be replaced by a new two-stage system from next year.
The SDLP said Sinn Fein had allowed the DUP and loyal orders to get the heads of the current Commission “on a plate”.
Sinn Fein insisted however that for the first time the right to live free from sectarian harassment would be enshrined in legislation.
The Parades Commission, meanwhile, meets today and is likely to debate the proposals which will lead to its demise.
As reported last week, a body of 11 people will be set up to rule on contentious marches, initially dividing into two groups of five but meeting in deadlock situations.
A separate procedure will be set up for residents’ groups and other interest groups to apply to protest specific parades.
The proposals make provision for mediators who can be appointed to intervene — and the new Justice Minister David Ford could ban certain marches.
The proposals were bashed out by a joint DUP and Sinn Fein working group set up after the Hillsborough Agreement in February and a 12-week consultation period is now under way before the Assembly can make the plans law.
The SDLP’s Dolores Kelly said Sinn Fein had played into the hands of the Orange Order.
“The DUP and Sinn Fein will be all over the new structure. They will put their people in to ‘mind the shop’ and to gain advantage (which) will result in a structure where the independence and credibility that the Parades Commission initially had and initially earned is lost.
“The new model, its structure and who controls it, will lead to new mischief,” the Upper Bann MLA argued.
SF’s John O’Dowd hit back, however. He said: “Both a Code of Conduct and the Draft Parades Bill include the right for communities and individuals to live free from sectarian harassment. The Loyal Orders will be legally bound by the Code of Conduct, as will any hangers on, supporters, and their bands and there will be an emphasis on dialogue, formal and informal, between the loyal orders and objectors.”