Irish Republican News · January 31, 2008
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Parades Commission appointments ruled illegal

The Parades Commission was thrown into turmoil this week with leading Orangeman David Burrows forced to resign after Britain's highest court ruled that the British decision to appoint him was illegal.

The ruling, unanimously agreed by five 'law lords', found that former British Direct Ruler Peter Hain's decision to appoint Mr Burrows and fellow Portadown Orangeman Don Mackay as parades commissioners in 2005 had been "improper" and "unlawful".

The ruling is significant because current British Secretary Shaun Woodward was also identified in the verdict as having conspired in the illegal appointments' procedure.

Meanwhile, Parades Commission chairman Roger Poole, who defended the appointments against nationalist objections, is under pressure to resign.

From their appointments in November 2005 the roles of the two Orangemen caused widespread anger among nationalists.

Even after his appointment Mr Mackay insisted that he would still take part in highly contentious Drumcree parades.

He caused further anger among nationalists when he urged Orangemen "not to give in" and claimed he was fighting the cause "from inside the fence" and spoke of "taking the battle forward".

Mr Mackay was later forced to resign when it was discovered that he had put the names of SDLP assembly member Dolores Kelly and DUP assembly member David Simpson forward as referees without their knowledge.

Mr Burrows also remained a member of the Orange Order after his appointment.

He had previously claimed that the Drumcree dispute symbolised the "victimisation" of unionists and described nationalist Garvaghy Road residents, who oppose sectarian parades through their community, as "bigoted" and "intransigent".

In May 2006 Garvaghy Road residents' spokesman Joe Duffy successfully challenged the appointments, arguing that Mr Hain had failed to ensure that the make-up of the commission represented both sides of the community.

The court ordered Mr Burrows to be removed from the commission.

That decision was later overturned by the Court of Appeal, which found that the secretary of state was not obliged to provide a balanced commission.

Mr Duffy appealed that decision to the House of Lords which yesterday ruled in his favour.

In a unanimous ruling the law lords found: "No reasonable person, knowing of the two appointees' background and activities, could have supposed that either would bring an objective or impartial judgment to bear on problems raised by the parade in Portadown and similar parades elsewhere."

Garvaghy Road residents spokesman Breandan Mac Cionnaith welcomed the judgment as an endorsement of his group's decision to challenge the appointments.

"When this present commission was appointed we stated that it was far from independent, that it was essentially 'a packed jury' and that it certainly would not enjoy the confidence of the nationalist community in Portadown.

"We were publicly criticised by Peter Hain for having the temerity to challenge the appointments.

"It was clear to us that political expediency on the part of the British government had played a major role in the process."

He accused the British government of attempting to create a "pro-unionist, partisan commission".

"That agenda and the process through which it was to be delivered has now been proven to have been deeply flawed, unreasonable and wholly illegal," Mr Mac Cionnaith said.

* Peter Hain resigned from the British Cabinet this week after police launched a probe into his finances for his bid to become deputy leader of the British Labour Party.

His dramatic departure was announced minutes after the Electoral Commission said it is referring the row over his late declaration of a hundred thousand pounds in funding to the police.

Mr Hain told reporters he had come to the conclusion that he had "no alternative but to resign".

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