Lord Justice Nicholson described as ‘bizarre‘ the decision to write to the Loyal Orders to effectively canvas them for a place on the Parades Commission. The Court of Appeal heard that Secretary of State Peter Hain wrote to the loyal orders because an official apparently included them in a list on her own initiative. The letters were central to a High Court ruling removing Orangeman David Burrows from the Commission this month.
Mr Hain is appealing the ruling, which found that officials were wrong to solicit applications from the loyal orders without considering if they should also ask nationalist groups.
The official in charge of the recruitment, Carol Moore, had told the High Court she believed the orders were inserted into a list of parties for Mr Hain to write to by another official, Diana Turkington. But the explanation could not be checked as Ms Turkington is on maternity leave.
It’s rather remarkable that a decision of that kind should be taken by a middle management official without consultation,” Lord Justice Nicholson remarked during yesterday’s hearing. “Bizarre, it strikes me.”
For the other side. Bernard McCloskey QC, for Mr Hain, said the case brought by Garvaghy Road resident Joe Duffy was “devoid of merit, both legally and factually”.
He told the appeal judges – the Lord Chief Justice, Sir Brian Kerr, Lord Justice Nicholson and Lord Justice Campbell – that writing to the orders was “a quite innocuous step which has been blown out of all proportion”.
“How on earth did these three letters – these three drops of sand – have the distorting effect that the applicant contends?” he asked. He said there was no evidence of a connection “between the three controversial letters and the outcome of the process”.
“These three letters we submit did not skew or divert the process in any way,” he said.
The Lord Chief Justice asked why the NIO would then choose to have Mr Hain write them.
“The answer is: why not?” Mr McCloskey replied.
Why not indeed!
It put me in mind of course of Charlie Haughey’s description of events in Ireland as Grotesque,Unprecedented,Bizarre and Unbelievable, thus arguably giving us the only useful legacy of his leadership, the phrase GUBU. The acronym was of course coined by Conor Cruise O’Brien, for the anoraks amongst us.