28 April 2006

Hain is accused of delay on Drumcree

Belfast Telegraph

NIO denies trying to stall court case

By Chris Thornton
28 April 2006

Garvaghy Road residents have accused Secretary of State Peter Hain of trying to delay their court action against his Parades Commission line-up until their Drumcree decision has been reached.

The group, which is opposed to the annual Orange parade in Portadown, said the NIO has been seeking to have their High Court hearing re-scheduled for June.

John Duffy, a resident, is taking a judicial review of Mr Hain's decision to appoint Portadown Orangemen David Burrows and Donald MacKay to the Commission.

On Wednesday, Mr Justice Weatherup admitted new evidence to Mr Duffy's case, which alleges that the Secretary of State was biased in favour of unionists and the loyal orders when he made the appointments last November. If the action is successful, Mr Hain could be forced to make new appointments.

The new evidence introduced this week includes affidavits from former Probation Board chief Breidge Gadd, who was turned down for a place on the Commission; SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly, who was used as a reference by Mr MacKay without her knowledge; and Residents' Coalition leader Breandan MacCionnaith, who noted that his group was not consulted about the appointments while Orangemen were.

The Residents' Group says that during the hearing, NIO lawyers sought to have the case - scheduled for May 12 - put back until June.

In a statement, the group said "most people" would assume that it was best to have the case "resolved as quickly as possible".

"However, those acting on behalf of the Secretary of State, against whom the judicial review has been granted, appear to be resorting to delaying tactics in this case," it said.

The residents said the NIO "requested a delay in any proceedings until mid-June, literally days before the ruling on the annual Drumcree Orange march will be made".

The parade, which has been blocked in the past few years without the widespread violence that marked previous marches, is scheduled for July 9.

The Commission would be expected to issue its ruling in early July.

The residents said the appointment by Mr Hain of two Portadown Orangemen created "serious question marks over the appointments process".

An NIO spokeswoman pointed out that the hearing is due to go ahead as scheduled on May 12, after an additional hearing on May 10. "The NIO wants to see this case resolved as soon as possible," she added.

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