Portadown and Parades Commission

Lest we forget the conflict over parading in a public place is not a recent problem. It has been the source of conflict in Ireland over many years, with those who parade emphasising their civil right to parade the King’s/Queen’s highway and others emphasising their right to oppose such parades.

It is therefore at worst lunacy and at best naive to think that these historical problems can be dealt with in the short-term. Even if Dr Haass had managed to persuade all the political parties to agree a protocol on parades it would be doomed to the same disaster as the flag protocol, which, though agreed, was subsequently ignored.

Whether we like it or not, this is not politics as we know it. This is the politics of the street and regardless of whatever is agreed there will still be those who, come hell or high water, will insist on walking the 100 yards of road which is restricted by the Parades Commission.

This should be borne in mind by all who are seeking a resolution to this historical problem, from the Secretary of State down to those politicians who make outlandish statements.

The Parades Commission should not take a short-term view of these conflicts as anyone with any real understanding of the issues knows that there will be a Parades Commission, in some shape or form, for the foreseeable future. As long as the police are unwilling to accept responsibility for decisions and as long as there is no universal agreement on routes and conduct, there will be a decision-making body of some sort.

The long-term view must be one of consistency, and while not in possession of all the facts the commission considered, the change in the determination to restrict the Parkmount Arch Committee from Victoria Terrace appears curious for a number of reasons.

  • Parkmount Junior LOL 150 walked this route as far as Castle Avenue on May 31 last with some restrictions on numbers. This was the consistent determinations of commissions for many years.
  • The arch is erected every year at Castle Avenue, 100 yards above the junction of Park Road and Victoria Terrace.

I have every sympathy for the Parades Commission, which is required to consider every aspect of the implications of its decisions; these issues are public issues and therefore require a public explanation. Was this parade restricted because it was a ‘new’ parade? If that is the thinking of the commission, it should be clearly stated.

It is often said that perception is everything.

It therefore does not look good for the commission to give the appearance of giving way to political pressure.

In the absence of any agreement, a little bit of tolerance and understanding for everyone involved would go down well.

Rev Brian Kennaway is a former member of the Parades Commission

This article appeared in the Belfast Telegraph on 27 June 2014
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