Alex Johnson writes for us on how he thinks the parading issue could be solved in Northern Ireland
In my experience all problems have a solution. What is so often lacking in this part of the world is the understanding and guts to bring solutions into operation.
I would like to suggest solutions to two of our favourite subjects (the rest of the world must laugh their heads off when they see this) – bonfires and bands – the two B’s .
Starting with bonfires: to state the obvious, they are built on land with one or more persons doing the organising, building the fire, and setting it alight. My proposal would be that the landowner (as defined – owner, leaseholder etc) would have to give written approval to the bonfire on their land. Then the organiser of the fire, again as defined, would have to obtain the approval of the relevant local/statutory authority covering the size and contents of the bonfire, and any other health and safety and environmental aspects.
If in the event, the fire became a hazard so that the Fire and Rescue Service had to be called to the scene then the Service would be able to charge the landowner and organiser of the bonfire jointly with the total real cost of the call-out to the Service.
Turning to bands: as I understand it each Orange Lodge selects a band to play for it during Orange parades. Each band has a manager . My proposal would be that each Lodge would notify Orange HQ of the band(s), and its responsible officers, which they are employing for the parade(s). The Head of each Lodge together with the Director of the Band would be legally responsible for the behaviour of the band during a parade, and there would be a defined set of penalties if the Courts were to find that one or more offences had been committed by the band during the parade.
It would be a logical next step in regard to both bonfires and bands for those found to be responsible for offences as set out above to be charged with the cost of police services which were required in respect of proven breaches of the law. It would be for consideration over a period of time as to whether what might be called the provision of ’ordinary’ police services should be charged as well. It happens at football matches – is there any difference?