The Strategic Review of Parading in Northern Ireland chaired by Paddy Ashdown was announced a year ago and, although it appears that their report isn’t due for publication until next week, some details are already being reported.
It is thought it favours splitting the processes of mediation and ruling when a dispute cannot be resolved. March organisers will be asked to give notice to their local district council 35 days before their planned event. If mediation failed, the dispute would be referred to a three-strong panel appointed by the OFMDFM. The panel would hold a hearing 15 days before a march and base their judgments on human rights, standards of behaviour and the applicant’s past behaviour. Rules on marches could involve no alcohol, no paramilitary trappings, no marching after 11pm and the provision of one steward to every 50 people.
What’s not reported is who will decide whether a parade is to be considered “contentious” – one role of the current Parades Commission. Update According to the Irish News [subs req for now] “Parades Commission will be replaced only if policing and justice powers are devolved and a bill of rights becomes law, a government body has insisted.” Although That Irish News report [subs req] doesn’t actually quote the Review body on that issue. Instead the IN report says, “Nationalists insist there can be no change without the transfer of policing and justice powers alongside specific protections in a forthcoming bill of rights.” And, “Parades on the Garvaghy Road in Portadown and the lower Ormeau Road in Belfast will not be within any new bodys remit.” Ahh Here’s where they’ve quoted the Review body – “The transfer of policing and justice matters to the executive is part of the wider jigsaw of politics in Northern Ireland and progress in these areas is very likely to affect progress on the transfer responsibility for parading issues.” Adds BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport asks – “If a three strong panel appointed to rule on a particular marching dispute is divided will they be allowed to reach a verdict by a majority vote, or should it be unanimous?”