So, Mervyn Gibson rocked the boat on The View last night, when he noted the Orange may, after taking legal advice, choose not to notify the Parades Commission… Why? because one of the outcomes of the recent flag protest is a new ‘understanding’ that if you don’t notify the Parades Commission, there is nothing they can do.
In other words, everything returns to the status quo ante; minus any form of prior notification being required by police or parades commission. The latter have, potentially, been sidelined. It is in theory, however, still illegal do so.
So why are the cops unlikely to act? Matt Baggott explained here in detail why not. Because as the Chief Constable “we will enforce the law at the time if we can, and if not then later”.
This is where it gets interesting. If there is no notification in the summer when thousands of Orangemen take to the streets, the court system may be hard pressed (if they continue in the same non confrontational vein) process the likely numbers.
As Brian Feeney correctly notes two convictions for illegal parading sends a message out you can do what you like. A message which is now being clearly heard and understood by the Orange Order.
As noted here on Slugger by Better Together it is a matter of both morals and incentives. And the incentives to follow the legal routes laid down in statute are rapidly disappearing.
With the legal safety net rapidly disappearing, those criticising the chief constable most loudly also seem a tad short on what the actual alternatives might be (other than maybe cracking a few Orange heads open). [Hold on. Haven’t we been here before? – Ed]
What time’s that #fleg protest at police headquarters again? Noooo, not that one.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty