“The bill is built on ignorance of the law, plain stupidity, arrogance, and worst of all, political expediency.”

In his Irish News column this week Brian Feeney is mostly correct in his response to the, DUP/Sinn Féin drafted, contentious “Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests Bill“.

Where he’s wrong is in his assertion that “The problem to be confronted under the terms of the Hillsborough Agreement was Orange marches – and only 5 per cent of them”.

As I’ve pointed out previously, the Hillsborough Agreement actually tasked the working group on parades with attempting “to create a new improved framework for the management and regulation of public assemblies including parades and related protests. [added emphasis]”

That places responsibility for the contentious draft Bill firmly in the hands of the leaderships of both parties, not the subsequent working group, and in the negotiations which led to the Hillsborough Agreement [pdf file].

Here’s what Brian Feeney does get right

What the DUP and Sinn Féin have done is make fatal errors in logic and in legislative practice. They have turned the conventional arrangement for assembly and protest on its head and incredibly have made the exception the rule.  They have argued from the particular to the general, a cardinal error.  They have taken the one exceptional circumstance that causes the problem, loyal order demonstrations, and made it the yardstick for all parades, assemblies and protests.  Trade unions and some political groups claim the bill is a plot to prevent freedom of expression.  Nothing so clever.  Yes, it would prevent freedom of expression but it’s not a plot, it’s the result of stupidity and a determination to cut a political deal at any cost. [added emphasis]

And responsibility for the result of that “stupidity” and “determination to cut a political deal at any cost” lies, as I’ve mentioned above, with the leaderships of both parties in the run-up to the Hillsborough Agreement.

An agreement which also commits the NI First and deputy First Ministers to “[promoting and supporting] the agreed outcomes of the working group”, as well as “[supporting] all necessary steps in the Assembly to ensure that the Bill completes all stages before the end of 2010.”

Bear all that in mind as I give almost the last word, for now, to Brian Feeney

However, relax.  The 1998 Northern Ireland Act renders incompetent any Stormont legislation outside the European Convention.  The bill so obviously contravenes Human Rights legislation it will never become law, or if it does it will be struck down.

Apart from the fact that the bill is beyond the legal authority of the executive and would prevent freedom of assembly it’s unworkable because of the bureaucracy it requires of the organisers of the simplest open air function.

What is a disgrace is that Sinn Féin is advocating the most repressive legislation in Europe as the price of a dirty deal with the DUP and that not a single SF MLA has the guts to stand up and say so.

Even though the bill in its present form will fail the fact that Sinn Féin is proposing such a stream of drivel, regardless of the consequences, merits nothing but scorn and contempt.

Indeed.

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  • joeCanuck

    Yes, indeed.

  • Cynic

    ….. and his point is?

  • joeCanuck

    I think the meat of it is..”The bill so obviously contravenes Human Rights legislation it will never become law, or if it does it will be struck down.”

  • Cynic

    Sorry Joe …I was being cynical. When you have done what SF has got away with then this is small beer – even if it does make Brian froth at the mouth even more than usual.

    Perhaps after all these years he’s starting to realise they are not really democrats!

    Politics for slow learners?

  • Pete Baker

    Play the ball, cynic.

  • Pete Baker

    Think again, Joe.

    Try, instead,

    Trade unions and some political groups claim the bill is a plot to prevent freedom of expression. Nothing so clever. Yes, it would prevent freedom of expression but it’s not a plot, it’s the result of stupidity and a determination to cut a political deal at any cost.

  • joeCanuck

    Well, Pete, it was such a long article. Not easy to condense into one soundbite. I agree totally that it is not a plot just an indication of the paucity of intellectual thought among our unfortunately elected leaders. Or, in other words, stupidity. Still, I cant believe any curtailing of the right of assembly will stand.

  • Pete Baker

    Joe

    “Still, I cant believe any curtailing of the right of assembly will stand.”

    You’re ignoring the evolution of the draft Bill…

    And the subsequent defence by interested parties.

    That’s the focus of the post.

    What was the political expediency behind the stupidity?

  • joeCanuck

    Pete,

    Stupidity is as stupidity does.
    SF thought they had Robinson by the balls and he believed them. An election would surely have finished him. SF wanted P&J to demonstrate to their somewhat wavering supporters that they still had power, Robinson’s hubris needed him to survive.
    So they appointed a committee to throw Robinson a bone, had a few cups of tea and biscuits (maybe some of the other, given the outcome), and came up with an elephant, a horse designed by a committee. Maybe that was a camel?

  • joeCanuck

    BTW, Pete,
    Did you have an aurora display last night? We’re close enough to the magnetic north pole that we see one a number of times every year. I stayed up half the night yesterday/today for something special – nothing at all. To be repeated tonight.

  • Munsterview

    “….What is a disgrace is that Sinn Féin is advocating the most repressive legislation in Europe as the price of a dirty deal with the DUP and that not a single SF MLA has the guts to stand up and say so.

    Even though the bill in its present form will fail the fact that Sinn Féin is proposing such a stream of drivel, regardless of the consequences, merits nothing but scorn and contempt….”

    I thoroughly agree with these sentiments expressed by Brian Feeney. In my Ard C. days these were the sort of stunts that Connor Cruise and Cooney et al came up with every monday morning to hamstring Republicans. Dessie O’Malley and McDowell are probably nodding in approval while elsewhere in the South it will be the last straw for another handful of Christy Browns!

    We do not have legislation in isolation : if it is seriously considered for statute law up there then it will be considered for the South, for Wales, Scotland and England. For a party like Sinn Fein, that came to power using protest politics this is ‘poacher turned gamekeeper’ big time and it is beyond shame. It is also a real and present danger to all street protest freedoms on these Islands.

    Sinn Fein in power were supposed to be opening doors to freedoms, not slamming them shut!

    This is Dev betrayal of republicans and republicanism all over again. As to the Unionist side where are all these vaunted protestant freedoms that are supposed to be intrinsic to protestantism? Not even a bleat from that camp either it seems.

    This has gone far enough; it is time for an ad hock group crossing religious and political lines on this one issue to organize and come out on the streets to protest the loss these fundamental freedoms while they can still do so.

     ” The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.”  John Philpot Curran

    Curran had to defend the human rights of the United Irishmen against a savage tyranny looking for ever more ways to constrict freedom. Were alive now his voice too would be raised in alarm against what is proposed!

  • Mick

    Superlative from Mr Feeney. Right to the core of the problem. SF made the mistake at Hillsborough of freezing out the Stoops, and listening only to the Army Council.

    Robinson was on the ropes back then but his team keep SF talking and talking, throwing in paper after paper.

    Notice how quiet the DUP has been on the on this piece of legislation. They seem more than happy to let SF lead on this and take the brickbats.

    Their attitude seems to be that now the particular has been scaled up to the general, everyone knows (or should) the ridiculous parameters the Orange have been expected to endure heretofore now.

  • drumlins rock

    Mick, the DUP equally made the mistake of freezing out the UUP, if all 4 parties had of been on the group then proper legislation might have resulted, instead it has been rejected by justabout everyone outside the 2 parties.
    There are letters and emails going around many Christian groups outlining thier opposition and I believe this had a large bearing on the Orange Orders rejection.

  • sdelaneys

    “I stayed up half the night yesterday/today for something special – nothing at all. To be repeated tonight.”

    Sounds like normal night life for some of us, ah ho. I must have a word with herself!

  • drumlins rock

    it was a camephant

  • Cushy Glenn

    ….and unless the orange order has forgotten all of the last decade’s experience, it ought to realise that being the DUP’s catspaw will alienate as many members as the mad UUP policies of the period did

  • Procrasnow

    Best piece of proposed legislation i have seen in years,

    Just watched the new tarmac being laid today, delivered by the lorry load King George 5th Playing fields, Mersey Street. Until it is all redone next year after the same criminal damage by bonfire.

    Or will it,

    Under this proposed legislation the organizers of the bonfire will have to get permission for the assembly. So if the council know who the organizers are they know who to bill for the damage.

    And if the council haven’t the bottle to do so, maybe some rate payer can sue the organizers, listed in the application, as long as that rate payer has access to legal aid.

    Serious good piece of proposed legislation, could see the end of this bonfire madness.

  • joeCanuck

    So deal with the specific problem(s). Don’t duck the responsibility (politicians) by coming up with a catchall piece of crap.
    Wait until you’re spontaneously protesting outside your factory because of a perceived wrong and you’re hauled off and charged with illegal assembly.

  • Munsterview

    Elevating a particular to the general and using a sledge hammer to crack a nut…..or nuts as the case may be!

    Any proposed legalization that curtail personal and public freedoms can only get a qualified justification at best and only in circumstances where there is no alternative or where the resulting benefits outweigh any damage to the common good.

    This proposed legalization fails abismally on both counts!

  • Pete Baker

    “Serious good piece of proposed legislation”

    Seriously bad attempt to ignore the obvious, and what’s detailed in the post.

  • Comrade Stalin

    (1) the organizers are already known to the council and the police. What we are dealing with is tolerated lawbreaking. The political will doesn’t exist to stop it. There is no need for new legislation to stop bonfires, there is plenty of existing unenforced legislation to cope with it.

    (2) I don’t think it’s possible to sue for damage to other people than yourself. Strictly speaking, the road isn’t yours.

  • Brian Feeney criticising his beloved Sinn Fein! Surely a rare occurence.Can we expect more of the same now that the scales have fallen from the good Drs eyes?