Defending an indefensible Parades Commission?

So far the summer has had mixed results for the new (and controversial) Parades Commission. Last night’s disturbances in Glengormley follow peaceful parades and protests in Ardoyne and Springfield. However there is still some unhappiness over the make up of the commission, which had pro-actively recruited from the Orange Order (a protagonist in some of the disputes). We have these critical thoughts from a writer under the nom de plume of ‘Aisling’.By ‘Aisling’

It might be worth putting Burrowes’ alleged resignation from the Orange Order into a proper perspective. (By the way, given that the Orange Order is a secret, oath-bound organisation, how can anyone know if he has really resigned from it?)

A spokesperson for the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition said last Thursday night,

“The resignation of David Burrowes from the Orange Order is one of the inevitable outworkings of the lengthy legal campaign with which we have been involved since Peter Hain made his political appointments to the Parades Commission. The resignation of Mr Burrowes from the Orange Order further validates the correctness of that legal campaign.

“On Tuesday of last week (13 June), our legal representatives wrote to the Parades Commission requesting details of the Commission’s internal procedures and codes of conduct for Commission members, along with the details of any meetings which David Burrowes, Donald McKay or Alison Scott-McKinley had attended since their appointments. When no acknowledgement or response was received from the Parades Commission by last Friday(16 June), that request was re-submitted later that day. (text of request below)

“On Tuesday of this week (20 June), the Commission responded by saying that the request had been handed over to their legal department and that a full response would be made after legal advice had been obtained.

“It is obvious that this is what prompted the Commission to insist upon Burrowes’ resignation from the Orange Order.

“However, this still does not resolve the matter of his presence, or that of Alison Scott-McKinley, on the Parades Commission.”

“We are continuing to pursue all legal avenues open to us to ensure that Peter Hain’s “packed jury” within the Parades Commission is removed.”

TEXT OF LETTER SENT BY GRRC’S LEGAL REPRESENATIVES TO PARADES COMMISSION

We act for the above-named who is a resident of the Garvaghy Road, Portadown and a member of the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition.

As the Parades Commission is a Non-Departmental Public body, the Parades Commission is obliged to act in accordance with the Guide for Departments
produced by the Cabinet Office. We would refer you in particular to the section dealing with Openness and Accountability. As appears from the contents of that section of the Guide:

i) The Parades Commission should have in place a Code of Practice to which members must adhere and which should be publicly available, [para. 3.3];
ii) The Parades Commission should, in conjunction with its sponsor Department, have drawn up rules of conduct for board members, designed to ensure that conflicts of interest are identified at an early stage and appropriate action taken to resolve them, [para. 3.5];
iii) Members of the Parades Commission should declare at board meetings any interest relating specifically to a particular issue under consideration for recording in the minutes. Board members should not participate in the discussion or determination of matters in which they have an interest, and should normally withdraw from the meeting of their interest is . . . covered in specific guidance issued by the body or the sponsoring department which requires them not to participate or to withdraw from the meeting [para. 3.5];
iv) Departments and, where appropriate, the Chief Executive of the Parades Commission should provide advice to board members and chairs on the handling of conflicts of interest [para. 3.5].

Given the existence of a conflict of interest on the part of both David Burrowes and Alison Scott-McKinley and the consequent concerns about how that is being addressed by the Parades Commission we would be obliged to receive the following:

a) A copy of the Parades Commission’s Code of Practice;
b) A copy of the Parades Commission’s rules of conduct for Commission members;
c) A copy of any advices received by Commission members and/or the Chair of the Parades Commission from the Parades Commission’s
sponsoring department or the Chief Executive of the Parades Commission in relation to handling conflicts of interest.
d) A copy of the minutes of all meetings at which David Burrowes and/or Alison Scott-McKinley declared their conflict of interest relating to any issue under discussion.
e) Copies of the minutes of all meetings at which applications by members of the Portadown LOL No. 1 to march in the Portadown area were determined, to include details of any declaration of a conflict of interest by David Burrowes, Donald McKay or Alison Scott-McKinley.

We look forward to your prompt response.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

One question to be asked is, where does all this leave Peter Hain? After all, look at his previous statements regarding this fiasco.

Tuesday 16 May 2006

Hain regrets MacKay resignation

Following news of the resignation of Don MacKay from the Parades Commission, Secretary of State Peter Hain MP said:

“I regret that Don MacKay has had to resign from the Parades Commission but I fully understand his reasons for doing so. I made all of the appointments to the Parades Commission in good faith and to introduce fresh thinking.

It will continue to have my unequivocal backing in its important and difficult work. The Parades Commission under the chairmanship of Roger Poole is taking a fresh approach and is engaging in an open and transparent way which is achieving real success in promoting unprecedented dialogue. When those who have been branded for years as being part of the problem join a body that is part of the solution then they should be supported or at least judged on how they perform and not be subject to hostility and abuse.

It is disappointing that those who object to an Orange presence on the Parades Commission have put their own factional politics ahead of the wider community’s long term interests.”

Friday 19 May 2006

Statement on Parades Commission ruling Secretary of State, Peter Hain has expressed his disappointment at the ruling against the process by which two Orangemen were appointed to the Parades Commission. Mr. Hain said:

“The Judge has been critical of aspects of the appointments process – incidentally nothing whatsoever to do with references-and we will, of course, look very carefully at what he has to say. The ruling is absolutely clear however there is no automatic conflict of interest between being an Orangeman and being on the Parades Commission. Indeed the judge specifically makes the point that ‘…this judgement should not operate as any prohibition on the reappointment of Mr. Burrows should the Secretary of State so decide in the exercise of his powers’.

Both David Burrows and Don McKay put themselves forward to be part of the solution to the problem of contentious parades. That took considerable courage and I commend them for it. I will now be considering the way forward. In the meantime, the Parades Commission under the excellent leadership of Roger Poole will continue with its vital work which deserves the unequivocal support of the whole community.”

22 May 2006

“The new commission has been very successful at beginning to build trust and confidence.”

Friday 9 June 2006 NI Court Service

Lord Justice Nicholson (minority decision)- “I am satisfied that the decision of the Secretary of State was flawed from the start of the selection process because it was decided to write to leaders of the Loyal Orders inviting applicants regardless of any conflict of interest. This was an act of positive discrimination.”

Lord Chief Justice Kerr (majority decision) – “I foresee considerable difficulties in Mr Burrows taking part in many of the critical determinations of the Commission”

And of course this was BEFORE Ms Scott-McKinley’s entry in the Commission’s own register for conflicts of interests was revealed.

Friday 9 June 2006 NIO Website

Hain welcomes Appeal Court decision The Secretary of State, Peter Hain MP, today welcomed the decision of the Court of Appeal to uphold the Government’s Appeal against the recent Judicial Review of the Parades Commission. He said:

“I welcome today’s decision by the Court of Appeal to uphold the Government’s Appeal against the Judicial Review judgement. In appointing both Roger Poole and the six Commissioners I was seeking to bring fresh thinking and a fresh approach to this difficult issue. I am pleased that David Burrows is restored to the Commission. He has acted with great dignity through a difficult period. He and Donald MacKay put themselves forward to be part of the solution to this issue and that took a great deal of courage.

“The Parades Commission have continued to work tirelessly throughout this period of uncertainty and now deserve the opportunity to get on with the important role that they undertake on behalf of Northern Ireland. I pay tribute to them and to the work which goes on at grass roots level across the community to encourage dialogue, tolerance and understanding.

“Dialogue and mutual respect for each other’s rights is the only way to reach accommodation. We have seen some good examples of this in recent times and I call on all those with influence in the community to continue their efforts to ensure a peaceful summer.

How does all of the above tally with what everyone in the North could see, and which the Parades Commission itself has finally been forced into admitting as a result of unrepentant Portadown Fenians – that there was indeed a MAJOR conflict of interest which no-one was prepared to address.

Not only has Burrowes been forced to resign from the Orange Order as a result of the legal campaign conducted by the GRRC and their legal representatives, he must now, (according to the official statement issued by the Parades Commission on behalf of Roger Poole), be excluded from all discussions and determinations connected to Orange parades in Portadown “or matters pertaining thereto” which is the most important bit.

Question – What input can Burrowes have in the review of the PC’s policies and procedures?

Answer – None. As, in relation to Portadown, that review will include “matters pertaining thereto” those parades.

Q. – Could this apply to other areas?

A – Quite possibly, after all Lord Chief Justice Kerr did say that the presence of Burrowes would “bedevill” the Commission with difficulties.

Q. – Could these restrictions of not participating in all discussions and determinations connected to Orange parades in Portadown “or matters pertaining thereto” also be applied to another Commission member, Alison Scott-McKinley, who signed the Commission’s register of interests as having “close family members who are also members of the Loyal Orders”?

A. – Most likely, yes.

Q. – Will residents from Garvaghy Rd seek the head of the Parades Commision chairperson?

A. – Quite possibly. After all, Roger Poole DID say the following:

Roger Poole 1/12/2005 interviewed by Dublin’s Q102 Radio

We have a brand new commission and it is a commission which is pretty representative of the community, right across the community in Northern Ireland. That gives us an opportunity to start afresh. The Parades Commission should not be seen as a threat to the Loyal Orders, a threat to parading, a threat to the unionist community, quite the reverse.

Roger Poole, BEFORE Don MacKay’s resignation – DUP member Don McKay, who was first appointed to the Parades Commission by British Secretary of State Peter Hain last November, faced calls for his resignation after he told a public meeting, in Portadown of all places, he was fighting for the Orange cause “inside the fence”.

Mr McKay, who was supposed to be independent in outlook, also urged Orangemen who attended a public meeting of the Commission in Portadown “not to give in”: said, “From a unionist perspective, we have got to have faith in what we believe in and take the battle forward.”

Really independent, don’t you think?

Chairman of the Parades Commission Roger Poole was given the hard task of trying to defend Mr McKay’s comments shortly afterwards on the BBC’s Hearts and Minds (4 May), and his defence centred around the idea that DUP man McKay just got a bit carried away. According to Mr Poole: “I think what Don was saying was very clear, to me at any rate if not to the audience, and that is that he was bringing his experience as an Orangeman to the Commission.”

It was certainly a lot more clear around the Garvaghy Road and Obins Street in Portadown, than it was to Roger Poole.

Tuesday, 16 May 2006 BBC

Roger Poole, after Don MacKay’s resignation – Mr Poole said the situation surrounding Mr Burrows was “very different” and he “shouldn’t have to consider his position at all”. He added, “It is important that we have got an Orange voice on the Commission because it is Orangemen who organise these parades.”

Friday 19 may 2006 RTE

Official Parades Commission statement issued after the High Court in Belfast overturned the appointment last November of a prominent Portadown Orangeman, David Burrowes:

‘It is deeply frustrating that the real and significant progress we are making in sensitive locations right across Northern Ireland is being delayed by events over which the commission has no control”.

Sounded a bit like accusing the Garvaghy residents of mischief-making without the Parades Commission having to address the core issue.

Thursday 22 June 2006 BBC

Mr Poole said in a statement that the decision ( Burrowes’ resignation from the Orange Order) was taken “in the interests of the greater good of the commission”.

The commission said it had taken account of the judgements of the courts. It said it was “conscious” that Mr Burrows’ association with the Portadown lodge meant he could not “participate fully in all of the commission’s deliberations, activities and decision making processes. The commission said in a statement that Mr Burrows would not play any part in its deliberations on parades in Portadown, “in the interests of fairness and transparency”.

Question – If that is indeed the case, how come Roger Poole, with his alleged vast experience in the Trade Union movement, did not arrive at this conclusion “in the interests of fairness and transparency” seven months ago?

Answer – Well, look at Poole’s background as seen by those trade-unionists on the picket lines during the ambulance workers’ strike in 1990 when Thatcher was still in power. The next few quotes come from a leaflet produced and distributed to ambulance pickets in February 1990, less than 2 months before the Poll Tax riots. It refers to a national day of action on January 30th 1990 in support of the ambulance drivers strikes that had been going on for some time in Britain:

(Kenneth)”Clarke has good reason to be smug: he knows that the Unions are only concerned with media images of popular support – not practical popular support. As Roger Poole stated earlier on in the strike, “We don’t want solidarity strikes from other workers”.

and:

“professional representatives hoping to make political capital out of a defeat that they help to bring about, since they always do their very best to throw up obstacles to the poor winning any of their battles. After all, their role would be at stake if there really was a movement with a chance of winning. Hence Robin Cook and Roger Poole’s vitriolic denunciation of those ambulance workers going on strike (or, in the past, Kinnock’s utter indifference towards the miners’ strike: how relieved he was when it was all over).”

or:

“With friends like Poole and co., workers don’t need the Tories’ new anti-wildcat strike laws.”

and a few weeks later:

“A Camden striker said on TV last night (22nd Feb.) that Roger Poole was completely “out of touch” with the crews, and that the dispute in reality was not so much about pay but about the whole future of the NHS.”

Mind you, to quote from the strikers’ leaflet above, the TUC in 1990 (for which Roger Poole was a ‘senior negotiator’) was known as Thatcher’s Unofficial Cops.

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  • Captain Pedant

    Is it too much to ask that in the very first sentence of the piece that the author could at least be bothered to spell a name correctly?

    It is Burrows, not Burrowes