Plans to replace the North’s Parades Commission have been described as “absolute madness” by nationalists.
It is being reported that local councils and the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister are set to take over from the commission.
It has been broadly welcomed by the DUP and the Protestant marching orders, such as the Orange Order. The Orange Order has long demanded the body be scrapped as it has prevented a number of coat-trailing triumphalist marches through Catholic areas, including the notoriously combustible Drumcree march through the Garvaghy Road in Portadown.
But the SDLP’s Dolores Kelly was strongly opposed, poiting to the Drumcree parade dispute, which would go before Craigavon council.
“Craigavon council has 26 councillors,” she said. “All but two of the unionist members of that council are members of the Orange Order and, indeed, one of them is a spokesperson for Drumcree.
“We have just seen in recent days the absolute mess the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers made of the Victims’ Commission so I don’t know what confidence the strategic review group thinks that the community could have in their proposals.”
The current Parades Commission was set up in 1997 to make decisions on whether contentious sectarian parades should be restricted.
The report on the parades issue is expected to be made public next week by the ‘Strategic Review of Parading Body’, a group appointed by the British government and headed by Paddy Ashdown, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats party and an alleged MI5 agent. It is expected to recommend that the Parades Commission be replaced by a number of different panels.
March organisers will be asked to give notice to their local district council 35 days before their planned event.
If mediation failed, the dispute would be referred to a three-strong panel appointed by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.
Other recommendations include a ‘cultural understanding educational programme’ in the school curriculum and state funding for so-called ‘Kick the Pope’ flute bands.
“Individual bands - provided they are registered - would be able to access funding to assist the development of their musical ability, encourage young people to join and explore ways of sharing the music played beyond being involved in parades,” the report reads.
It says progress between political parties offers an opportunity for the days of “croppy lie down” and “no orange feet” to end.
Other reports have claimed that the Parades Commission will only be replaced if policing and justice powers are devolved and a bill of rights becomes law.