03 April 2006

AGENT ORANGE - Orange Order consulted on make-up of parades body – No residents’ groups were approached

Daily Ireland

Don MacKay says he’s fighting the cause of the loyal orders ‘from inside the fence’

by Ciarán Barnes

Fresh concerns have been raised about the make-up of the Parades Commission after it emerged the Orange Order was consulted about who should be appointed.
The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) also asked the Apprentice Boys and Royal Black Institution to provide the names of suitable candidates, but failed to consult with nationalist residents groups during the appointment process.
Senior Orangemen David Burrows and Don MacKay were subsequently appointed to the body, which is responsible for deciding whether controversial marches can go ahead.
On Thursday at a public meeting in Portadown, Co Armagh, Mr MacKay said he was fighting the cause of the loyal orders “from inside the fence”.
In his role as a commissioner, Mr MacKay has a duty to act in an independent manner when making decisions.
In light of his comments and the NIO’s failure to consult with residents’ organisations, nationalists have again raised concerns about the “clear imbalance” of the Parades Commission.
Garvaghy Road residents’ spokesman Brendan MacCionnaith said his community had no faith in the group.
“There is a clear imbalance on the Parades Commission. This can be seen in comments made by both Don MacKay and David Burrows, and the fact they remain members of loyal orders,” said Mr MacCionnaith.
“During the appointments procedure, the NIO deliberately ignored the opinions of nationalist residents’ groups.
“The entire process was watched over by the NIO security operations and policing department.
“These are the same people who drew up the 1997 Garvaghy Road game plan when residents were beaten off the road so Orangemen could get down.”
Mr Burrows and Mr McKay’s appointment to the Parades Commission will be challenged in Belfast’s High Court today.
Lawyers acting for residents’ groups are seeking a judicial review of the decision and the appointments procedure which deemed their applications acceptable.
When the commissioners’ posts were first advertised last year, the NIO received 94 applications, 42 of which came from the Protestant community, 29 from the Catholic community and 23 from other communities.
These were broken down to a shortlist of 24 for interview, of which 15 were Protestant, five Catholic, and four from other religions.
The NIO then produced a list of what it termed were 17 “appointable candidates”, 11 of whom were Protestant, three Catholic and three from other religious backgrounds.
From this list, the NIO appointed four Protestants (David Burrows, Don MacKay, Vilma Patterson and Alison Scott-McKinley) and two Catholics (Dr Joe Hendron and Anne Monaghan) as commissioners.
When challenged about why, during the appointment procedure, the NIO consulted loyal orders but not nationalist residents’ groups, a spokeswoman said: “The Secretary of State [Peter Hain] met with a wide variety of organisations and community representatives prior to the appointments being announced.”
The latest row over the appointment procedure comes just weeks after it emerged Don MacKay lied on his commission application form.
Mr MacKay gave the name of Upper Bann SDLP assembly member Dolores Kelly as a referee without asking her permission. Ms Kelly later called on Mr MacKay to resign.

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