“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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