31 May 2006

'Bizarre' reason for parades body bid to recruit Orangemen

Belfast Telegraph

31 May 2006

The NIO's explanation for targeting Parades Commission applications from the Orange Order is "bizarre", a senior appeal judge remarked yesterday.

The Court of Appeal heard that Secretary of State Peter Hain wrote to the loyal orders because an official apparently included them in a list on her own initiative. The letters were central to a High Court ruling removing Orangeman David Burrows from the Commission this month.

Mr Hain is appealing the ruling, which found that officials were wrong to solicit applications from the loyal orders without considering if they should also ask nationalist groups.

The official in charge of the recruitment, Carol Moore, had told the High Court she believed the orders were inserted into a list of parties for Mr Hain to write to by another official, Diana Turkington. But the explanation could not be checked as Ms Turkington is on maternity leave.

"It's rather remarkable that a decision of that kind should be taken by a middle management official without consultation," Lord Justice Nicholson remarked during yesterday's hearing. "Bizarre, it strikes me."

Bernard McCloskey QC, for Mr Hain, said the case brought by Garvaghy Road resident Joe Duffy was "devoid of merit, both legally and factually".

He told the appeal judges - the Lord Chief Justice, Sir Brian Kerr, Lord Justice Nicholson and Lord Justice Campbell - that writing to the orders was "a quite innocuous step which has been blown out of all proportion".

"How on earth did these three letters - these three drops of sand - have the distorting effect that the applicant contends?" he asked. He said there was no evidence of a connection "between the three controversial letters and the outcome of the process".

"These three letters we submit did not skew or divert the process in any way," he said.

The Lord Chief Justice asked why the NIO would then choose to have Mr Hain write them.

"The answer is: why not?" Mr McCloskey replied.

Barry Macdonald QC, for Mr Duffy, said no one involved in parading or opposing parades could serve on the Commission.

"No member of the loyal orders, no member of interested parties could be a member of the Commission in circumstances where the Commission discharges of the kind specified in the Act," he said.

He said that since there is no right of appeal against rulings it is "of particular importance that the Commission that makes the decision is free from bias".

The case continues.

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