Inequality backed by Court of Appeal
Inequality backed by Court of Appeal

A Court of Appeal ruling which upheld British Direct Ruler Peter Hain’s decision to appoint two members of the anti-Catholic Orange Order to the Parades Commission has been strongly criticised by nationalists.

The appointments to the body which adjudicates on sectarian parades were backed by references and were made without counterbalancing appointments from nationalist residents’ groups.

The court overturned a judicial review when it ruled that there was no jurisdiction to challenge political decisions. Nationalists are now considering taking the case to the House of Lords.

Presenting the court’s majority verdict, Brian Kerr said that while Mr Hain’s decision had been political, it was not illegal and said the Orangemen’s declaration of objectivity should be accepted.

Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd described the court decision as deeply worrying.

“This leaves people in the situation that decisions taken by British direct rule ministers are neither challengeable by the electorate through the ballot box or indeed the courts,” Mr O’Dowd said.

“This verdict from the leading Diplock judge does not alter the fact that the current Parades Commission is unbalanced and that nationalist confidence in its ability to deliver in a fair and impartial manner has been badly damaged. This lack of confidence has been further damaged by Peter Hain’s arrogant decision to appeal the original judgement.”

The Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition said the unanimous and critical reaction from right across the broad nationalist spectrum showed the level of dissatisfaction with the decision.

Garvaghy Road Residents Group spokesman Brendan Mac Cionnaith said the group would consult with their legal representatives on whether to take the case to the House of Lords.

* Pressure is mounting on the Parades Commission to act against breaches of its rulings following complaints from political representatives.

The Pride of the Maine parade, which took place in Ballymena last week heightened sectarian tensions in the town in the wake of the murder of Catholic teenager Michael McIlveen.

The parade’s supporters shouted slogans during a minute’s silence to remember the 15-year-old among a number of breaches of the commission’s code of conduct,

Unionist paramilitary flags had also been flown while up to 300 people shouting and playing music loudly outside All Saints Catholic Church.

The flags had appeared despite assurances from unionist representatives.

* The leader of the Catholic church in Ireland has held formal talks with members of the loyal orders for the first time.

Archbishop Sean Brady, the Catholic primate of all Ireland, hosted the meeting at his residence in Armagh city yesterday.

He said he was happy to meet the loyal order leaders’ request for a meeting.

“Coming into a time when tensions often rise in Northern Ireland, the symbolism of such a meeting is a powerful one,” said Dr Brady.

* The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has been forced to review its policy of funding loyalist ‘kick-the-Pope’ bands.

Last year it was revealed the organisation had handed over almost 100,000 pounds sterling to bands which are openly aligned with paramilitary groups.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News