Parades policy in crisis
Parades policy in crisis

Portadown Orangeman Don MacKay has been forced to resign from the Parades Commission after being exposed earlier this year for using false references when joining the commission.

The commission adjudicates on contentious parades in the North of Ireland.

Mr MacKay stood down hours after it emerged that he had used the name of DUP Upper Bann MP David Simpson as a reference without permission. Mr MacKay had previously been strongly criticised for using the name of SDLP assembly member Dolores Kelly as a reference without her knowledge.

Fellow Orangeman David Burrows has also been criticised for using the name of former Methodist moderator Jim Rea in the same way. There have also been calls for him to resign.

The pair had declared that they would work to defend anti-Catholic parades through nationalist areas “from the inside”.

The move has embarrassed British Direct Ruler Peter Hain, who refused to remove either man from the commission. Following the resignation, Hain defended Mr MacKay and accused nationalists of making “mischief” over the affair.

Garvaghy Road Residents’ Coalition spokesman Brendan MacCionnaith said Hain was ultimately to blame for what had become a “debacle”.

“Background checks on both men and their references were ignored, along with clear conflicts of interest, as Hain sought to create an imbalanced and biased commission,” he said.

Sinn Féin assembly member John O’Dowd warned that nationalist confidence in the commission was now “at an all time low”.

“The new Parades Commission since the day it was appointed has stumbled from one crisis to another. Nationalists were rightly sceptical about the appointment of two leading Orangemen to the Commission. The fact that it has since emerged that both forged elements of their application form only adds to the sense of alarm,” he said.

“The Parades Commission now have a massive job of work to rebuild public confidence in their ability to perform impartially as we face into the marching season.”

Hain, who appointed Mr McKay to the commission last November, attacked the nationalist SDLP, who had bolstered calls for the resignations.

“When those who have been branded for years as being part of the problem join a body that is part of the solution, then they should be supported, or at least judged on how they perform, and not be subject to hostility and abuse,” he said.

Dolores Kelly said the British government had “tried to pull a stroke by packing the commission with Orange Order members without doing even basic checks on their suitability.

“They then attacked those of us in the SDLP who raised legitimate and serious concerns, accusing us of making unnecessary mischief when we were simply doing our duty as public representatives who are concerned about the role of the Parades Commission.”

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© 2006 Irish Republican News