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
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
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
``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
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.''