Republican News · Thursday 26 February 1998

[An Phoblacht]

Legal challenge to Parades Commission

By Laura Friel

Dismay and considerable anger greeted the British Secretary of State's appointments to the Parades Commission this week.

``A Unionist commission for a Unionist people,'' is how Gerard Rice of the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community described the Parades body following the appointment of ex-UDA leader Glen Barr and Ballynafeigh Apprentice Boy Tommy Cheevers.

Donncha MacNiallais of the Bogside Residents Group dismissed the appointments as ``a joke.''

``A farce,'' said Dessie Grimes of the Pomeroy Residents' Association. The appointments were announced as a prominent nationalist member of the commission, Berna McIvor (who is a member of the SDLP), resigned.

British Secretary of State, Marjorie Mowlam said the background of individual members did not matter and the Commission represented a ``good cross-section'' of people.

Glen Barr, a senior loyalist figure from Derry, was chairperson of the Ulster Workers Council which ran the 1974 loyalist strike against the Sunningdale power sharing agreement. Barr was a founding member of Bill Craig's Vanguard Party, an extremist loyalist group with neo-nazi tendencies.

Tommy Cheevers, a leading member of the Ballynafeigh Apprentice Boys, has been a prominent player in the controversy around loyalist parades along the predominently nationalist Lower Ormeau Road. He has consistently refused to meet or discuss the issue of parades with nationalist residents.

Gerard Rice said the contemptuous dismissal of nationalist fears and concerns by Mo Mowlam will not be enough to convince us that this body is not a Unionist commission for a Unionist people. ``Glen Barr has plenty of experience of blocking roads and Tommy Cheevers has plenty of experience of walking through small nationalist areas,'' Rice said.

Nationalist dismay at the appointment of two loyalists was compounded by two further appointments: an ex-member of the Police Authority, Rose Anne McCormick and a solicitor for the Police Federation, Aidan Canavan.

``We have absolutely no confidence in the Commission,'' said MacNiallais of BRG, ``we do not see how the body could be described by any reasonable person as fair, impartial or independent.''

The appointments showed the British government was not interested in addressing the problem, said Grimes of PRA. ``Clearly this government has no intention of upholding nationalist rights,'' said Rice of LOCC, ``the commission is totally discredited and should go.'' The LOCC are seeking a judicial review challenging recent appointments and the chairmanship of Alistair Graham as a contravention of legislation requiring the commission to be independent and impartial.

Welcoming the resignation of Berna McIvor, (a senior SDLP figure from Derry and close aide to party leader John Hume), the LOCC said it ``removes any apparent nationalist involvement in this discredited body and highlights its inability to do the job it was set up to do.''

McIvor is believed to have resigned from the Commission because she was ``uncomfortable'' about the direction the authority was taking. Mowlam's decision showed that her reported fears were well-founded.

``This government has neither the will nor ability to adjudicate fairly,'' said LOCC. ``We believe it is now time for the Irish government to vigorously intervene and act to protect the rights of nationalist communities who will find themselves beleaguered by the RUC in coming weeks to facilitate sectarian parades.''

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