Want a parade? When do you want it? Now! What about in just 3 days time?

Anti-rascism rally in front of Belfast City Hall in 2009There still seems to be a bit of misunderstanding about the consultation paper issued by OFMDFM on Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests in Northern Ireland. It’s even been covered on Slugger … though Brian did point to the small relevant print.

Talk about parades and all you’ll hear a lot of talk about 37 days.

Section 13 explains that notice should normally be given to OPAPP (Office of Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests) during working hours on a working day 37 calendar days before the public meeting or procession is due to start. (It’s not 37 working days, it’s just 37 days … 5 weeks and an extra weekend.)

Public protests reacting to a public meeting or procession (section 15) should normally be notified 22 calendar days beforehand.

However, the draft bill does contain provision for unexpected circumstances.

The Late Notification procedure (section 33) allows public assemblies to be organised with three working day’s notice.

And the Emergency procedure (section 36) allows someone to go to the police station nearest to the event they’re organising and hand over a notice of the public meeting, procession or protest to a sergeant (or someone more senior) within just three calendar days of the event. Effectively this allows the Chief Constable to rule on whether the police can resource a protest in front of the City Hall and notify the statutory body PAPPB (Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests Body) that he’s happy.

And if you really want to do something in a hurry – protest indoors and invite the TV cameras in as it won’t fall under the legislation.

Is three day’s notice really so bad? Would that not still have allowed the ant-racism rallies to go ahead on front of Belfast City Hall? Hold a rally in the Visteon car park and you won’t be on public land so that’s exempt too! Suddenly the proposed legislation isn’t quite so draconian.

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  • al

    Yes but when everyone starts applying for an “emergency” parade, demonstration, protest whatever what will happen then? The clause will be defined further and real “emergencies” will be affected.

  • Song for the Republican Convention

    As I said on the other thread, between 3 and 37 days of the closure/job losses you want to protest against your request requires the direct involvement of the Chief Constable.

    Matt Baggot could be a very busy man during this economic downturn, being asked to rule on the admissability of each protest at a school, hospital or factory closure.

    Frankly it’s absurd to think this 3 day consession is acceptable either in terms of civil liberties or practicalities.

  • joeCanuck

    Is three day’s notice really so bad?

    Yes, it is. Assembly should require no more than a phone call to the polis saying that we’re doing it as we speak. Maybe 24 hours for a public meeting.
    As far as “traditional” parades go, 12 months is fine with me.

  • Framer

    The whole unenforceable, undemocratic mess is designed to give the DUP cover by enabling them to say they have abolished the Parades Commission. Instead they have created the most absurd abortion of a quango within OFMDFM.

    The Orange should keep well away from it and the DUP.

    As we know, our coalition cannot agree on anything new or different except to administer present arrangements – unless the matter is within one minister’s fiefdom.

  • Cynic

    ” concession”

    I thought that the right to parade was, well, a right guaranteed by ECHR and subject only to restrictions which were ‘reasonable’. 37 days aint reasonable.

  • Playing devil’s advocate … Name a protest held in a public place that’s been organised in less than 3 days? The ICTU don’t organise them at the drop of a hat – the trailer and the PA don’t turn up magically. I don’t think that 3 days is that far from the current reality.

    The main legislation for 37 days for the original parade/meeting and 22 days for the subsequent protest is really for the predictable stuff that’s in everyone’s diaries.

  • John K Lund

    All parades with the exception of those organised by the Armed Forces or The British Legion; should pay for all police expenditure involved. The nation is in an acute financial mess left us by the previous government and it should not be incumbent on the taxpayers to fund the plicing of these sectarian charades.

  • Neil

    Also, as well as broadly agreeing with those above, how often do you think anti-terrorism legislation is used these days? Do you think it’s only used on bona fide terrorists, or do you think it’s used as a tool that can be deployed to put pressure on people, or worse to allow the cops to sit on someone for 42 days? That it might be used innapropriately when the cops feel they need a bit more time for example? The stats tell a story that the vast majority of those detained never face a charge. It’s used to crack down on harbourers of unpopular opinions.

    The same issues arise. It’s a broad document and dealing with the emergency protest section, the politicos and police will have the power to prevent parades they don’t agree with. It might suit Sinn Fein down to the ground for example to silence protests by other Republican organisations that are critical of Sinn Fein, but this is a democracy and unpopular opinions are something that we have to learn to tolerate.

    We have few enough rights with which to make the government listen to us, the last thing we need is to allow them to be neutralised with an addendum saying ‘yeah with agreement from the CC you can still protest – nothing to see here’. That’s all well and good until the CC starts denying the right to protest, but by then we’ve already handed over our right to protest with this legislation due the mealy mouthed half promise that you might be allowed to protest within 3 days if you get agreement from the CC.

  • But that’s no worse than today. You’d be in breach of public order if you congregated in large numbers in front of the City Hall and held an ad hoc protest without the police saying they’d be ok with that and wouldn’t arrive and break it up.

  • UlsterScotty

    Benjamin Franklin said “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety” As true today as it was 235 years ago.

  • joeCanuck

    The rules shouldn’t be any different from what applies in the UK for meetings and protests. As this legislation stands, you couldn’t call a public meeting in a town square during an election period.
    The problem is a few contentious parades. Deal with them. Don’t let democratic rights get whittled away by two parties, neither of which have been much interested in democracy in the past.

  • wee buns

    The enemy is identified (subversives of all ilks)
    And ‘protection’ is offered.

    However it is only for the sake of an illusion of protection such legislation is proffered.

    If we (ever) truely decide to revolt, we could overwhelm them (law makers) in a heartbeat.