“The content of this bill seeks to remove the Parades Commission…”

Newshound spots an interesting report in the Newry Democrat.  I’ve already noted the decision by the Orange Order’s Grand Lodge.  Now it’s reported that, at a specially convened meeting, Newry and Mourne Council have agreed to oppose the Sinn Féin/DUP drafted Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests Bill on the grounds it is “an infringement of civil liberties and human rights“.  According to the Newry Democrat report

[SDLP group leader Councillor Gary] Stokes said Sinn Fein has “joined forces” with the DUP in promoting the bill but added that Sinn Fein members “effectively voted with their feet” by not showing up at Wednesday’s special meeting.

“Only one Sinn Fein councillor, Charlie Casey, turned up,” he said.

By my reckoning there are 12 Sinn Féin councillors on Newry and Mourne Council…  The consultation on the Bill is due to end today.

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  • slappymcgroundout

    There isn’t a constitutional govt in the world that does not provide for reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on speech and assembly.

    The fellow in the SDLP had otherwise best go back and relearn the English language:

    13.—(1) A person who proposes to organise a public procession or a public meeting must give notice to OPAPP—

    So “spontaneous” gatherings won’t be a problem, as “spontaneous” is, by definition, without “organization” [spontaneous: happening or arising without apparent external cause][one’s “organizing” would be the “apparent” “external cause”].

    This is simply pathetic:

    “God help 50 plus one GAA fans coming out of Pairc Esler after the match walking up Kilmorey Street.”

    Uh, note from slappy to stoop. That event does not begin to come under the provisions of the bill. And for the simple reason that no one “organizes” the exit from a sporting event. You leave, I leave, he, she, and they leave, when you and I, and he, she and they, believe the time is right to leave (unless for all these years, and all those sporting events, everyone but me has been part of a grand conspiracy to exit the arena and/or stadium).

    I would suggest that the folks in his constituency vote for some other soul with a tad bit greater understanding of the English language and why one leaves sporting events. Would also help if you there in his constituency elect someone who knows what a bill means from reading the bill.

  • fin

    it was a ‘specially convened meeting’ so I wonder who did show up, the bulk of the council is SF or SDLP with a UUP, Green, UKIP, 2 independents and 2 DUPs. With the SDLP unable to say what they want instead of the new laws this smacks of more SDLP tilting at windmills, I’m guessing what they want is the same as they do for education, to do nothing instead, and hope by opposing SF without having an actual position themselves they may gain a few votes.

  • slappymcgroundout

    To add to my last, even if we take a more “liberal” view of “spontaneous”, the Sinn Fein fellow is correct and the stoop a moron:

    Emergency procedure
    36.—(1) This section applies if a person gives notice in respect of a public assembly under section 13 or 15 within the period of 3 days ending with the proposed date of the assembly.
    The person must leave a copy of the notice with a member of the Police Service of Northern Ireland not below the rank of sergeant at the police station nearest to—
    the location of the proposed public meeting or protest meeting,
    the starting place of the proposed public procession.
    The Chief Constable must ensure that the notice is immediately referred to PAPPB.
    The requirements of sections 13(5) and 15(6) do not apply.
    37.—(1) It is an offence to organise or take part in a public assembly if—
    (a) notice of the assembly has not been given in accordance with this Act, or
    (b) the assembly differs in any respect (whether as to time, location, route or otherwise) from the details specified in the notice.

    So, in the “emergency”, leave the req’d notice and so long as you do that, and you don’t differ in any respect, then there is no offense (as it were).

    And for what I left out last time, no one, repeat, no one is going to treat anyone leaving the sporting event, concert, what have you, as a “public procession”. “Procession” implies or means “orderly”. “Orderly” implies or means, “Having a systematic arrangement”. So no one will be arrested and jailed for “organizing” the exit nor will anyone will be arrested or jailed for exiting the stadium or concert hall owing to their “having a systematic arrangement”.

    Lastly, and the way, for what the stoop still hasn’t learned yet, it doesn’t matter the law on the books. Didn’t matter in the South here in the US. If they want to hassle you and put you in your place, well, they’ll hassle you and put you in your place. End of story. And never mind a legal scheme that might be facially neutral. He’d be better off worrying about just who is in the PSNI and who is getting appointed prosecutor and judge.

  • wj

    The Committee on the Administration of Justice have published their response to the draft Bill. It can be accessed here:

  • Perhaps not leaving a sporting event. However under the current definition, every sporting event that expects more than 50 persons would need to be notified. If you sell tickets you are inviting people. If you organise a free festival, you are inviting people. If you are organising any meeting where you hope to attract more than 50 people…

    7.—(1) “Public meeting” means a meeting of 50 or more persons—
    held in a public place, and
    which the public, or a section of the public, are invited to attend.

  • Lionel Hutz

    It’s brilliant seeing this bill being almost universally condemned. Even the violence over the last few days should not be the impetus for pushing this horrendous piece of legislation through. It is an assault on civil liberties making the exception of parading being treated as the norm and normal public assemblies being treated as the exception.

    For what it’s worth, on the issue of parades, the working group overlooked the real conflict. It’s not between taigs and prods on the future of the OO in NI. The real conflict is between residents and those wishing to march through residential areas. The bill should have focused on differentiating between town centres etc and residential areas. The principle should not be to treat OO marches more prescriptively than other public assembly, rather the principle should be that there is a difference between public assemblies as a whole and those in residential areas. In the latter, there is a great conflict between different human rights- Arts 8+11.

  • joeCanuck

    My understanding is that there is a right of free assembly under European Law and UN Declarations. Perhaps not specific in the UK in the absence of a written Constitution but I am fairly sure that there is a Common Law right.
    I’m not aware of any equivalent right to march despite cries about being able to walk the Queen’s Highway; I believe that is an individual, not a group, right. But even for Assembly, where competing rights come into conflict, restrictions are justified. No AOH affiliated band would be allowed to assemble outside a COI Church during service and play “patriotic” songs.
    Are there any restrictions on the Ardoyne parades?

  • Lionel Hutz

    Joe: This is from the HRA 1998. This would be the fundamental right enjoyed by the Orange Order and their members which allows them to march.

    “Article 11 Freedom of assembly and association

    1 Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

    2 No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This Article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State.

    Paragraph 2 indicates that this is a qualified right and any qualification or infringement can only be lawful if proportionate. This means that any restriction imposed by the state must:
    – be imposed in the pursuit of a legitmate aim.
    – it must achieve that aim
    – it must be the least intrusive means of achieving that aim.

    In the case of a march through a genuine public space (town centres etc), that fact that it is contenious may not be enough to warrant stopping the march, particularly as it could be argued that the a Police Presence could allow the march to pass of peacefully.

    Referring to my comment above, it is in residential areas where there is a genuine conflict BETWEEN rights.

    “Article 8 Right to respect for private and family life

    1 Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

    2 There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.


    Part II The First Protocol
    Article 1 Protection of property

    Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.

    The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair the right of a State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties.”

    It is ofcourse arguable that the effective lockdown of a residential area during a march is an abuse of these two rights. Also the common law tort of nuisance would indicate that residents are entitled to peaceful enjoyment of their homes free from nuisance, intimidation etc etc.

    In this case the Right to public assembly may be curtailed lawfully.

    I see the logic in not wishing to differentiate between marches and other forms of assembly. In fact, given the religious and cultural context of parading, to do so would be an infringement of the following:

    Article 14 Prohibition of discrimination

    The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.

    Article 14 is not a stand alone right, it operates in conjunction with the other rights. There are numerous examples of where this has been used to rule laws as incompatible where courts have shied away from calling a measure incompatible by being simply disproportioante. For example the detention without trial law ruled incompatible not because of the wider infirngement on the right of liberty or a fair trial but because it applied to foreign nationals only and was therfore discriminatory.

    The same conditions should apply to all forms of assembly, the executive has no choice but to do this. This means that our politicians must be more creative that they have hitherto been. I believe that this can be best done by drawing a distinction between all forms of assembly that are in town centres or public space and all forms of assembly which are in residential areas. The latter can have more restrictions imposed with a eye kept on the contentious nature, the likelihood of violence etc.

  • joeCanuck

    Thanks, Lionel.

  • Marty

    the CAJ – another republican mouthpiece

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    As Rev Brian Kennaway ….a sane voice in Orange Order has note…….the Orange Orders refusal to engage and the removal of the Parades Commission will result in a worse situation for the Orange Order.
    Yet Kennaway is engaging in even more unionist/orange angst.
    Orange rejectionism is of course good news for Republicanism.
    The whole notion floated in Overclass circles that republicans have some kind of obligation to help unionists/orange order out of their own folly is bizarre.

    The sheer unadulterated stupidity of Orange Order is one of the great constants in our Political Reality. From a Republican perspective they should be encouraged to be even more stupid.

  • There have been years of talks in North and West Belfast. The major issue there has been constantly changing ‘residents’ groups or representatives. More recently the emergence of competing residents groups has brought into the question of whether either could actually deliver on any discussions. It is not clear the criteria that the Parades Commission uses to ‘recognise’ resident groups (Irish News said last week that the PC did not recognise CARC or whatever it is called). When dialogue was on-going on the Ormeau on of the issues was that having talked to residents then it would be discovered that there were lots of others (never named or disclosed by the PC) who were putting their oar in.

    The biggest observation on dialogue, where it has happened, is that ‘accommodation’ seems to be rarely on the ‘residents’ agenda. Which begs the question as to what notion of shared future do these resident’s groups have. If some would want to project on the likes of CARA (by way of example) what is the shared future Sinn Fein wants to see.

    There have been years of talks to show that there is room to share and respect others culture, but all that seems to arise is demonisation and a constant picking at a running sore.

  • SimpleTown

    One might also ask not just which group represents the residents but also who exactly is a resident?

    If someone from the centre of the Ardoyne estate is considered a “resident” of the roundabout where the shops are then why is someone from, say, Loyalist Woodvale not considered a resident of the roundabout where the shops are?

    Map for clarity on what I’m saying.

    Declaring the roundabout where the shops are a “nationalist area” is itself a threatening and aggressive act, as is declaring it the property of the Ardoyne estate, where nobody could see the parade from their actual house unless perhaps they were standing on their roof.

    Even if we could possibly hold a referendum of all Ardoyne residents by what right are they even the appropriate “electorate” for that short stretch of road that is in question?