“the council will have a purely administrative role..”

I had asked, when noting the advance notice of the Strategic Review of Parading in Northern Ireland report, who will decide whether a parade [all public assemblies of 15 people or more – Ed] is to be considered “contentious”? If this BBC report is accurate, it would appear that no-one will.

Where possible, any objections will be dealt with by direct contact between the organisers and the objectors.

If this is not possible and objections remain unresolved, the local council will facilitate discussion between the event organiser and those raising concerns.
The review body says the council will have a purely administrative role and will simply facilitate discussion rather than have a direct input.

So one determined objector can trigger the involvement of the Office of First and Deputy First Minister? Adds NI Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward, said: “This is an important interim piece of work.” And that “interim piece of work” is available here.Other points to note from the BBC report

The organiser of a public assembly of 15 or more must notify their local council at least 35 days before it is due to take place.

All interested parties, including the police and locally elected representatives, will then be notified by the council.

Any objections must be registered with the local council within seven days.

Update From the interim report

Step 1

Organisers of public assemblies should consider all aspects of their event and where possible identify any issues that may arise and immediately endeavour to address these. The issues identified and actions taken should be noted on the notification form they will be required to submit.

Step 2

The organiser of a public assembly of 15 or more persons, a public procession or a related protest meeting (see definitions on page 25) must notify a nominated officer of the local council of their intention to hold an assembly as early as possible but no less than 35 days before the assembly or, in the case of a protest related to a notified assembly, 21 days. Notification must be made by completion of the notification form and submitted by post, in electronic form or in person.

Step 3

The local council will publish the notification form, in a publicly accessible way, and directly notify identified interested parties, including the PSNI, emergency services and local elected representatives, of the planned event.

Step 4

Any objections to the proposed assembly will be lodged, on the appropriate form, with the local council within seven days of publication of the event details by the local council. The local council will notify all designated parties and all other parties who have registered an interest of the objection(s) and publish the objection form in a public accessible way.

Where possible, any concerns or objections in relation to a proposed public assembly will be dealt with by direct contact between the organisers and the objectors. The outcome will be notified to the local authority, who will then notify all interested parties of the agreed changes.

Where local agreement is reached, the assembly may then proceed as agreed.

Step 5

Where concerns or objections remain unresolved, the local council will facilitate discussion between the event organiser and those raising concerns or objections to seek a resolution to the issues. These informal discussions will be organised by the local council and held at local council expense and take place within seven days of receiving any concern or objection.

Step 6

Where no agreement can be reached through dialogue, the local council will inform OFM/DFM or their identified agents. Where requested by any party to the dispute and where valid considerations are raised, the local council will arrange a mediator, agreed by the parties to the dispute and drawn from the OFM/DFM register, on a case by case basis.

Parties to mediation will together agree a set of ‘ground rules’ and identify the issues to be addressed. The outcome will be notified to the local council who will then notify interested parties.

If a party is unwilling to enter mediation, OFM/DFM will be notified and they will then immediately initiate the adjudication process. Where a party is unwilling to enter face to face discussions, unless that refusal is due to exceptional circumstances that can be fully justified to the satisfaction of the adjudication panel, it will be taken into account by the panel in its final deliberations.

Step 7

Where no agreement is reached at least fourteen days prior to the proposed assembly date, the matter will be referred to OFM/DFM, by the mediator, for final adjudication (although mediation might continue). OFM/DFM will appoint an Adjudication Panel from their register of adjudicators consisting of three members, of whom at least one is qualified to practice law or has a relevant legal qualification and who will also act as chair of the panel.

The Adjudication Panel will be able to receive evidence from whomsoever they wish and must take into account human rights issues, any previous breaches of the Standards involving the participants concerned, and monitors’ reports.

The legally binding adjudication will be issued at least 7 days prior to the event taking place whenever possible.

In reaching their decision, the Adjudication Panel will fully explain their decisions in terms of human rights (determining which rights are actually engaged in any given situation), the Standards, and monitors’ reports and any other matters relating to behaviour in the previous year. It will be the responsibility of the local council to notify all interested parties of the Adjudication Panel’s decision.

An Adjudication Panel may only review a decision after it is issued if new and material facts have emerged which substantially affect the context in which the adjudication was made.

Step 8

For adjudicated assemblies, there will be a post event review involving all stakeholders no later than 35 days after the event. In all other cases it will be open to the parties, or the PSNI, to call for a post event review.

Update And it sounds like anyone can declare themselves an interested party

1.7 Local Councils that:

The Office of the Chief Executive within local councils should be given legislative responsibility for administering the processes of notification and local contact for dialogue. 4.3 (ii)

They should maintain appropriate records of all notifications received and any actions taken. 4.3 (vi)

They should establish and maintain a list for anyone wishing to be informed about forthcoming assemblies within their council area. This list should be publicly available. 4.3 (vii) [added emphasis]

In the context of their responsibilities to promote Good Relations, local councils should support the development of skills in dispute resolution both within the council and its staff, and within the wider community. 4.3 (viii)

For clarity

4.3 (vii) We recommend that local councils should establish and maintain a list for anyone wishing to be informed about forthcoming assemblies within their council area. This list should be publicly available. [added emphasis]

And for further clarity

4.3 (xi) Concerns or objections must be based on an identified potential breach of human rights, including public order issues where they impact on the rights of others, and/or a potential breach of the agreed standards of conduct. The local council should copy these objections to the event organiser.

xii) Where no concerns or objections are lodged with the local council, the event should proceed as notified.

xiii) Where it is not possible for concerns or objections to be lodged within seven days of the publication of notice, due to exceptional and unforeseen circumstances, the local council must decide whether or not there is sufficient time for the process of local dialogue and mediation to run. If there is insufficient time, the notified assembly should be referred directly to OFMDFM who should then consider whether the concerns or objections are manifestly ill-founded on human rights grounds, and whether an adjudication panel should be appointed. A full explanation of the exceptional and unforeseen circumstances must be provided. [added emphasis]

And if there is sufficient time?

4.4 (iii) Where resolution through local dialogue is not possible, OFM/DFM should be informed and if they are satisfied that the concerns or objections are not manifestly ill-founded on human rights grounds (having regard to past behaviour and the standards of conduct, and on the basis of appropriate advice where necessary) OFM/DFM (or their agent) they will appoint an independent mediator(s) acceptable to all parties. [added emphasis]

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  • Pete, do you suppose the OFMDFM would be able to agree ONE mediator or THREE adjudicators?

  • LURIG

    This is another layered cake Quango cop out. Does the British government & political parties, especially Sinn Fein, think that we are ALL stupid? The issue of marching was brought up at St. Andrews where Sinn Fein and the DUP agreed a deal. Marching, particularly contentious Orange parades, would be traded by Republicans in return for the devolution of policing and justice. This adjudication panel, with local council input, is a fudge to make the decision to allow parades through Catholic areas easier and let Sinn Fein and the British Government off the hook. The interviews on Talkbalk with Sean Murray & John O’Dowd were VERY revealing as their answers were proof that a deal has been worked out on this. Irrespective of whether the residents of Garvaghy & the Lower Ormeau disagree with the proposals Republicans have ALREADY decided it for them. The rights, feelings and opinions of people in these areas have been sacrificed to keep the power crazy Shinners sweet with Unionists. Talk about meetings with residents egarding the proposals are a BIG nonsense. They will be on the same lines as those that the Republican leadership had with their own grass roots, a total whitewash and cosmetic exercise. Sinn Fein LONG ago showed that principles and core beliefs can be surrendered to satisfy lust for devolved British ministerial office. The Shinners are so far detached from their own community now that they can’t even see it. Thanks to them we can once again anticipate the sight of Catholics getting beaten off the streets at ALL hours of the day and night to allow the Orange Order Stormtroopers to quench their bigoted, sectarian thirst. Unionists wanted the abolution of the Parades Commission, they got it. Well done Adams & McGuinness, at least you are consistent and totally unrepresentative of the Nationalist community with your negotiating incompetence. Pathetic!

  • RSR

    What has been proposed to replace the parades commission, which is appointed by the Secretary of State NI, is a body to adjuicate over contenious parades which is appointed by the FM and DFM.

    Anyone see the similarities apart from the change of name? Sounds like its going to be the devolved version of the current parades commission with exactly the same role!

    The role of the local councils is small and suppose will reduce the operating costs of the new commission by passing the admin end down to the councils. Nothing really significant there.

  • has anyone got a link to the report itself?

  • Dewi

    Report not published yet. This is spin.

  • Pete Baker

    I’ve added a link in the original post to the SRP website and the interim report.

  • Dewi

    Here we go again

    “Where no agreement can be reached through dialogue, the local council will then inform the Office of First and Deputy First Minister”

    Unless they, of course, choose not to. Sounds like another decade or two of fun to me.

  • Dewi

    “3. Where it is not possible for the organiser(s) give at least 35 days notice, or 21 days in the case of a related protest, because the assembly is a response to circumstances which could not have been reasonably foreseen, the organiser of an assembly must provide notice at the earliest possible date and provide a full
    explanation of the unforeseen circumstances which
    made timely notification impossible;”

    Or what?

  • Wolfe Tone

    As to defining what is ‘contentious’, it appears that any concern or objection lodged in relation to a notified assembly – provided it is not ‘manifestly ill-founded on human rights grounds’ (and this seems to be the key) – will trigger the procedures envisaged by the report in relation to local dialogue, mediation, and (in the last resort) adjudication.

    Under the recommendations, the decision about whether or not concerns are ‘manifestly ill-founded on human rights grounds’ is one for OFM/DFM (or their Secretariat) on the basis of appropriate advice if necessary.

  • “a body to adjuicate over contenious parades”

    As I see it, there will be ‘numerous’ three member adjudicator panels, not a single commission.

  • Dewi

    From the Parade Commission website:
    Number of annual parades in various towns / cities Portadown = 107.

    I appreciate the cultural importance of such occassions to many – but hells bells that’s more than 2 a week in a pretty small place.

  • … that’s more than 2 a week in a pretty small place.

    Could be that they’re counting all of the weekly applications made in respect of Drumcree, most of which do not, of course, ever see feet on the ground.

  • Deirdre Nelson

    Speaking purely as a local councillor all I can say is “AAAAGH!”
    This is oging to mean extra hassle for us from all sides laong the lines of support our parade, support our protest etcetc with probably little or no extra funding and the attendant infighting in council chambers across NI.
    Speaking as a unionist I’m reasonably happy to see back of commission. I don’t think parachuting in bodies form across the water to tell us all to do as they say, not as they do actually works. We do need local solutions on the ground but I don’t know if we’ve reached the necessary political maturity to do this here yet. Certainly if the veiled threats and crabbiness coming from Gerald Rice (LOCC) and John O’Dowd are anything to go by it’ll be a while yet.

  • URQUHART

    This is unbelievable. A wrecker’s charter that will cost a bloody fortune.

  • URQUHART

    Although, you have to hand it to the Orange negotiators – they appear to have changed the name of the Parades Commission in return for almost nothing

    Just the devolution of policing & justice and the introduction of the Bill of Rights.

  • Wolfe Tone

    Mmmm. Under the proposals, local elected councillors wouldn’t be involved at all. The report’s recommendations seem to engage only the Council’s administrative – and not their political – functionaries (ie. the Office of the Chief Executive). This office would be a single gateway for the notification of public assemblies, and any concerns/objections. The Office of the Chief Executive would also have a role in trying to organise informal discussions where any concerns are raised. If this isn’t possible or doesn’t work, then OFMDFM would be informed…

    Would it necessarily cost more than the Parades Commission? Or the £18 million per year spent on policing parades?

  • Urguhart, your ‘wrecker’s charter’ reminds me related words back in 1997 re. Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Bill:

    “It is built upon deceiving words and the misconceptions taken up by Governments–this one and previous ones–as truth. It creates another factory of grievances in Northern Ireland.” .. William Ross

  • ulsterfan

    Not a good deal for Unionists.
    DUP get a few marches but no guarantee of Drumcree or Ormeau and in exchange they give the P&J;powers to SF.
    Bad negotiating again.

  • deirdre nelson

    Wolfe,
    If you think this won’t get to elected representatives one way or another you are seriously optimistic. These things have a way of coming back at us whatever happens. Even if it does just go through Chief’s office we still have to ok any budget expenditure.

  • IJP

    The “purely administrative role” is concerning.

    The whole objective of the RPA seems to be to deliver that – Councils are to administer, but not to make policy and certainly not to raise finance. That’s not a recipe for accountable, stable government – policy-making, finance-raising and administration need to go hand-in-hand to avoid endless buck-passing.

    The Parades Review must not be the first step of many in the wrong direction.

  • DAY not Knight

    Where no agreement can be reached through dialogue, the local council will inform OFM/DFM or their identified agents. Where requested by any party to the dispute and where valid considerations are raised, the local council will arrange a mediator, agreed by the parties to the dispute and drawn from the OFM/DFM register, on a case by case basis.

    Agreed by the parties to the dispute? There’s a recipe for success! So it gets kicked upstairs, and who are they going to put upon this, maybe some crew with experience like… the Parades Commission. I wonder if they’re going to get a pay raise out of this charade.
    Ben

  • Pete Baker

    DAY

    Any “valid considerations” would appear to be assessed, in all circumstances, by the OFMDFM not at the council level.

    IJP

    The by-passing of the councils, in terms of any decision making process in regard to public assemblies, would seem to indicate a lack of trust in those councils to make fair, and accountable, decisions.

    And that includes the new improved RPA models.

  • Dewi

    Yeah – too right Pete – how about making a decent suggestion? – this shit is important.

  • Pete, the Chuckle Coalition is strong on central control and strong against dissent so it’s hardly surprising that the proposals will have been designed with the coalition in mind.

  • Driftwood

    Much ado about nothing
    The political dispensation here remains as now…stasis.
    And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how it will remain for the Forseeable future.
    No rocking the boat, upsetting the assembly gravy train applecart (mixed metaphor?).
    Too many comfort zones for the public sector (soporific) guardians of mediocrity to maintain. No doubt a few summer squabbles among the ‘lower orders’ but who, honestly gives a shit?
    Unless the treasury starts to pull the plug…SNAFU.
    The commentor on another thread who mentioned “community worker” funding possibly running out had it spot on.
    So it goes….

  • Dewi

    Totally off-topic – but astonishing:

    Welsh Blogger get’s done