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!
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty