“It is part of the outworking of the Hillsborough Agreement…”

Interesting comment yesterday from Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd on the end of the consultation period on the Sinn Féin/DUP drafted Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests Bill [pdf file] – which a significant number of diverse groups are opposing.  From the SF statement

“This legislation is an attempt to find a better way forward. It is part of the outworking of the Hillsborough Agreement. It is only designed to be about the issue of parades and related protests. Concerns raised by Trade Unions and others that the current Draft legislation may unintentionally infringe on their work can and will be resolved through the next stages of the process.” [added emphasis]

Really?  Unintentionally?  That will be why the only explicit exceptions to the provisions of the draft “Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests Bill” are funeral processions

Here’s a thought. 

Why don’t the Office of the First and deputy First Ministers publish the report on the “agreed outcomes” of the working group on which this Draft Bill is based?  Maybe then we could help identify where this unintentional slip-up occured?

Remember the working group?  Members – Gerry Kelly and Jeffrey Donaldson, Stephen Moutray, Nelson McCausland, Michelle Gildernew and John O’Dowd.  [Adds  Ably advised by Mervyn Gibson and Sean ‘Spike’ Murray…]

Here’s part of the remit of that working group, as noted here, from the Hillsborough Agreement [pdf file]

[2] 3. We recognise that support from all sides of the community has the potential to create a new improved framework for the management and regulation of public assemblies including parades and related protests. [added emphasis]


[2] 4. The working group has been tasked to take forward work in the following areas, building on the interim report of the Strategic Review of Parading. This will inform the public consultation, as part of the schedule, as set out in the timetable below:
· Procedures relating to the receipt and notification of parades and assemblies; objections relating to them; necessary actions arising from the lodging of objections; and the facilitation of dialogue and mediation; [added emphasis again]
· In the event of the failure of mediation, recourse to independent adjudications and procedures;
· Adjudication arrangements comprising an appropriate mix of lay and legal expertise with sufficient resources to operate effectively and efficiently;
· A code of conduct which is legally enforceable;
· The right of citizens to freedom from all forms of harassment.


[2] 5. The working group by agreement may add to the above points. [section 2.4]

And there are other reasons why the report on the “agreed outcomes” of that working group would be worth looking at.

The “Hillsborough Castle Agreement” has this to say on those “agreed outcomes”

6. The First Minister and deputy First Minister will promote and support the agreed outcomes of the working group.  [added emphasis]

And from that document’s timetable

Working group begins work 9 February

Working group completes work and reports on agreed outcomes to FM/dFM By 23 February

Commencement of the drafting of Bill to implement working group agreed outcomes (working group to assist during drafting process to confirm Bill delivers agreed outcomes) End w/c 22 Feb

Draft Bill completed Late March

That would be the same working group of which John O’Dowd was a member…  And we have the resultant Draft Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests Bill