01 December 2005

SDLP on the attack over parades commission


01/12/2005 - 16:19:07

The nationalist SDLP tonight rejected claims it lobbied the British government to have one of its former MPs, Dr Joe Hendron appointed to the Northern Ireland Parades Commission.

In a hard hitting attack on the new-look commission which also includes Portadown Orangeman David Burrows, Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey claimed it was biased, with no representative of the working class nationalist and republican community on it.

The South Belfast MLA said: “It has instead at least two members of the loyal orders and two members of the local policing DPPs.

“Given this bias in make up nationalists and republicans will be justifiably sceptical of this commission’s ability to reach impartial and fair determinations.

“Another point which needs to be clarified is the role of the SDLP in putting this new Commission together.

“It would seem that the SDLP has colluded with the British government to ensure its own representation, in the shape of Joe Hendron, in exchange for the rest of the Parades Commission being loaded in favour of the unionist and loyal order position.”

Mr Maskey’s comments were labelled farcical, however, by SDLP policing spokesperson Alex Attwood.

The West Belfast MLA countered: “Gerry Kelly has declared Sinn Féin believe the Parades Commission is ‘obsolete’.

“This was said publicly, on the record, and has never been withdrawn.

“Sinn Féin’s latest comments are hollow and contradictory. Their concern about the new makeup of the Parades Commission are in open contradiction of their views that it is obsolete.

“The SDLP will judge each and every member of the commission against the exact same standards.

“Will they stand by the principles developed by the previous commission around genuine dialogue, respect for reconciliation and a proper assessment of the rights of all? Will all members stand by the proper principles and thinking of previous commissions around contentious parades?

“We will judge each member against these standards. Be it the new chair, David Burrows, Joe Hendron or any other member.”

Mr Attwood said the new commission, which will be chaired by former trade union negotiator Roger Poole, had a different complexion from its predecessors.

He insisted the SDLP would resist any approach which engineered different outcomes on contentious parades and that disregarded proper standards and principles.

The West Belfast MLA continued: “The SDLP has a proven record around the commission.

“Sinn Féin have only a proven unprincipled approach to the work of previous commissions.

“Unlike Sinn Féin on on-the-runs and state killings, the SDLP has not colluded with the British government on the appointment of the Parades Commission.

“Unlike Sinn Féin, our biggest ally and best friend is not the British government.

“The SDLP have no nominee on the Parades Commission and made no representations that any one individual should join the Parades Commission, whoever that individual might be.

“Each member and all members of the Parades Commission need to get parading decisions right. That is what the SDLP is working to do."

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