Scott-McKinley objection based on legal priniciple

Fair Deal’s post on the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition’s objection to the inclusion of Alison Scott-McKinley on the Parades Commission, gingered a fair amount of sharp discussion: with some individuals outraged that she was being challenged simply because members of her family were in the Orange Order. However Breandán Mac Cionnaith below, points out that the Garvaghey Resident’ objection is founded in British law:From Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition

Far from the GRRC objecting to any member of the Parades Commission participating in various decision making processes about parades because he or she might be “a Prod”, the GRRC is simply advocating that British policy and guidelines which apply in England, Scotland or Wales, also applies to British government appointed bodies here in North.

Based upon a British Government Cabinet Office document, prepared by the Agencies and Public Bodies Team of the aforementioned Office, entitled “Non Departmental Public Bodies: A Guide for Departments j) Policy – Openness and accountability”; Board members of Non-Departmental Public Bodies’s or Tribunal Non-Departmental Public Bodies’s ( of which the Parades Commission
is one) should not participate in the discussion, or determination, of matters in which they have an interest, and should normally withdraw from meetings if their interest is direct and pecuniary, or if their interest is covered in specific guidance issued by that body.

The Parades Commission, falling as it legislatively does under the remit of the NIO, is not only accountable to various legislation, policies and procedures adopted in Britain, but is also accountable to also to precise legislation such as the Public Processions Act and the NI Act 1998 which apply specifically to the Six Counties as opposed to other legislation, policies and procedures which apply only to England, Scotland and Wales.

British government policies for Non Departmental Public Bodies and, particularly, for those agencies classified as Tribunal Non Departmental Public Bodies (among which the Parades Commission was reclassified as being one by the NIO in 2005) state that there should include a requirement for declaring, and if necessary resolving, any potential personal or business conflicts of interests in relation to the work of the public body concerned.

For further details refer to paragraph “3.5 Conflicts and registers of interests for board members’” of the document entitled “Non Departmental Public Bodies: A Guide for Departments j) Policy – openness and accountability”.

In the document entitled “Non Departmental Public Bodies: A Guide for Departments j) Policy – Openness and accountability”, it states that Board members are strongly encouraged to register non-pecuniary interests which relate closely to the body’s activities, and interests of close family members and persons living in the same household as the board member.

In relation to the above, and recorded in the Register of Members Interests of the Tribunal NDPB called the “Parades Commission of Northern Ireland”, it is declared in writing in that Register by Commission board member, David Burrowes, and Commission board member and Vice-Chair of the Commission, Alison Scott-McKinley that they both have interests in the Loyal Orders.

However, up until a judicial review earlier this year regarding appointments to the Commission, Burrowes never left any meeting which discussed parades by Portadown Orange Lodge of which has been the former District Master. Parades Commission records also show that Alison Scott-McKinley has never left any meeting discussing Orange marches, including those relating to the
Orange lodge of which her father is a member.

The document entitled “Non Departmental Public Bodies: A Guide for Departments j) Policy – Openness and accountability” states, “Indirect pecuniary interests arise from connections with bodies which have a direct pecuniary interest; or from being a business partner or of being employed by a person with such an interest. Non-pecuniary interests include those arising from membership of clubs and other organisations. Close family members include personal partners, parents, children (both adult and minor), siblings and the personal partners of any of these.”

Members of the Parades Commission should abide the above guidelines. What this should mean is that the common law requires that members of public bodies (ie Commissioners) should not participate in the discussion or determination of matters in which they have a direct pecuniary interest; and that when an interest is not of a direct pecuniary kind, members should consider whether participation in the discussion or determination of a matter would suggest a real danger of bias.

This should be interpreted in the sense that Commissioners might either unwittingly or otherwise unfairly regard with favour or disfavour, the case if a party to the matter under consideration. In considering whether a real danger of bias exists in relation to a particular decision, Commissioners should assess whether they, a close family member, a person living in the same household as the Commissioner, are likely to be affected more than the generality of those affected by the decision in question.

OO supporters and others should take note; GRRC is upholding British law and trying to ensure the effective implementation of the same!

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  • Pete Baker

    Well at first glance Breandán’s conflating the case of Burrows and Scott-McKinley to, deliberately, muddy the waters.

    I’ve posted here on Burrows on numerous times but the two cases are not the same.

    Burrows has a direct interest – which was been declared – although he also, belatedly, resigned.

    Scott-McKinley’s interest, also declared, is both indirect and non-pecuniary by the terms referred to in the argument by GRRC.

    Indeed, the stated argument is that “Board members of Non-Departmental Public Bodies’s or Tribunal Non-Departmental Public Bodies’s ( of which the Parades Commission
    is one) should not participate in the discussion, or determination, of matters in which they have an interest, and should normally withdraw from meetings if their interest is direct and pecuniary

    while the actual complaint is based on the assertion that, “Parades Commission records also show that Alison Scott-McKinley has never left any meeting discussing Orange marches” – which she had no requirement to do.

    The rest of the piece above seems to be GRRC’s interpretation of what those guidelines should mean.

  • fair_deal

    Pete has applied his usual skilled eye dealing with this nonsense very well. One more point is that this is guidance not law.

  • aquifer

    Smoke and flim flam. Of course the whole membership of the commission should reflect the diversity of interests of the community it serves, to understand the issues better. I hope we are not paying for this legal kite-flying on top of the usual police overtime bill for setting the stage at Drumcree.

  • Rory

    The Garvaghy residents are understandably upset that yet another abusive demonstration is to take place, this time, bizarrely enough, to commemorate the number of days being objectionable about the right to be abusive to a small beleagured community.

    In most tolerant societies a simple “Go away please, you are disturbing our peace” would be enough. It yet seems to be with this, as with other, Orange marches that the whole point is to disturb the peace of others and that if that cannot be achieved then the exercise is deemed a failure.

    It would seem then that those who so insist on disturbing the peace of a community would be dispersed or arrested under Common Law. But since that does not seem to apply in British occupied Ireland, one is obliged to go through all the ridiculous postures and turns of legalistic trickery in order to obtain relief. This latest objetion by the residents is simply another attempt to use the (sadly ineffective) rule of statute law to enforce what would seem to me to be simple rights under Common Law.

    I am surprised that Pete,usually such a stalwart for judicial process, objects when the residents apply to that process for succour. Even if Pete disdains the motive, surely he upholds the right to test the objection in law.

  • Pete Baker

    “I am surprised that Pete,usually such a stalwart for judicial process, objects when the residents apply to that process for succour.”

    I see we have another difference of opinion, Rory.

    There was me thinking I was being critical of the argument put forward for the objection.. when, in fact, I was actually criticising the recourse to the judicial process itself.. thanks for clearing that up for me..

  • páid

    Pébrí céard a dhéarfá i dtaobh Pheadar a ‘Bhácaire, déanann sé a chuid obair bhaile.

  • Hurler on the Pot

    Pete:

    KISS, a simple principle; Keep It Simple Stupid?

  • Rory

    I happen to agree with you, Pete, that I do not think that the allegiences of one’s relatives ought not to be assumed to effect or prejudice one’s own opinions or actions. Nevertheless it is not safe to assume that such presumption of innocence is universally held in the public mind, quite the reverse in fact, and it is for this reason that an apparent conflict of interest might arise that would merit one disqualifying oneself from participation in some areas of decision making. Since the law allows for this it is this which the residents wish to test in law.

    Further, I would argue that such is the nature and intent of this proposed march i.e. to promote further discord, division and sectarian sabre-rattling, a march indeed with no good purpose whatsoever, that it is incumbent upon the residents’ representatives to take all and every step in law available to them in an attempt to halt this pernicious attempt at perpetuating misery for the residents of Garvaghy Road.

    The Portadown OO’s website’s open invitation for all brethren to join the march gives an indication of the real intent and may yet prove to be the nail in this march’s coffin confounding as it does the Order’s earlier submissions to the commission.

  • rapunsel

    Lets put it the other way. What if a member of the parades commision had a close family member who lived on the Garvaghy Road. Presumably Pete and Fair Deal believe that hypothetical individual’s interest should not require them to either leave the room or prevent their being involved in the discussion leading to the determination?

  • Pete Baker

    rapunsel

    Frankly I have little interest in the actual parade one way or the way.. but I have posted on Slugger about the ham-fisted manipulation by Hain and the NIO of the appointments process to the Commission.

    In the hypothetical example you give, the guidelines would suggest that the connection barely justifies registering as an indirect, non-pecuniary, interest – although it would probably be appropriate to record in relation to a discussion directly relating to that area – and it certainly wouldn’t require them to leave the room during any discussion as the GRRC claim Scott-McKinley should have.

  • rapunsel

    Fair enough Pete, that is a straight answer although one I disagree with myself.