U-turn over Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests Bill?

The Northern Ireland First and deputy First Ministers have published a very short summary of the responses [pdf file] to the consultation on their jointly drafted Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests Bill [pdf file].  That’s the draft Bill “built on ignorance of the law, plain stupidity, arrogance, and worst of all, political expediency.”

We’ll have to wait to see the detail of the reported amendments being proposed.

But let’s be clear about one thing.

When the First Minister says

“The primary change will be the removal of all public meetings from the remit of the legislation. The public consultation process indicated concern that open-air and other similar public meetings would be captured by the legislation. This was not the intention and this amendment will absolutely clarify this.” Furthermore, we intend to address any confusion about the references to human rights in the legislation to make clear that these references indicate a framework based on the European Convention of Human Rights.”[added emphasis]

He is being economical with the actualité.

As I pointed out previously, the remit of the working group on parades, as noted here, included all public assemblies – 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]

As for Jeffrey Donaldson’s comment that “This decision is sensible and the improved Bill will be welcomed by many across the Province”.

Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?  After all, he jointly chaired the working group…

But does “[limiting the legislation] in application to parades and related protest meetings” make it any less offensive to the human rights lobby?

Adds  Peter Robinson isn’t the only one being disingenuous about the draft Bill…

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