16 May 2006

Fiasco over posts in Parades body grows

Belfast Telegraph

MP puts pressure on Hain

By Michael McHugh
16 May 2006

The Parades Commission appointments controversy deepened again today after a third prominent person came forward to confirm he had been used as a referee without his consent.

The news will put further pressure on Secretary of State Peter Hain to explain why references were not checked out.

Upper Bann DUP MP David Simpson has confirmed to the Belfast Telegraph that he was not asked by controversial Orangeman Don MacKay for permission to use his name as a referee.

And he added that no one contacted him to ask if he would recommend Mr MacKay.

Mr Simpson said he would not have recommended Mr MacKay for the post if he had been asked.

The disclosure will deepen the controversy over the appointment of Mr MacKay and fellow Portadown Orangeman David Burrows to the commission and comes at the onset of a legal challenge to the appointments.

Mr Simpson, who is also a local Orangeman, said he would be taking his "fury" out on the Secretary of State, Peter Hain, for not ensuring that references were checked and added that he would not have supported Mr MacKay for the position.

SDLP Assembly member Dolores Kelly and Portadown minister Jim Rea have also been named as referees without their permission as part of the saga, and Mr Simpson dubbed it a scandal.

"No one asked for my permission for names to go on to a reference or whatever, nobody from the commission approached me (about the reference) and I think that is their failing," he said.

"It is scandalous. The Parades Commission didn't come back to me. I am totally opposed to that body. It (the reference) would not have happened but we are where we are.

"I will be taking my fury out on the commission and the Secretary of State."

The commission has said that it plays no part in the appointments process.

Mr Simpson, a successful businessman, said he would be in urgent contact with the quango today to demand an explanation for the oversight.

He added that he could not be blamed for somebody putting his name on a sheet without his knowledge.

He knows Mr MacKay through his position in the Fire and Rescue Service.

Today's row is the latest twist in the commission debacle which has seen Upper Bann SDLP Assembly member Dolores Kelly make an official complaint after learning that she had been named as a referee by Mr MacKay.

The issue arose after officials at the NIO said they had been impressed by the reference.

Mr Rea has also expressed concern after learning that his name had been used by David Burrows, former head of the order's Portadown District, without his permission.

He had supported another local Orangeman, Ian Milne, who is well-known for his negotiating skills and has been at the centre of efforts to solve the Drumcree impasse but was not selected.

Mr MacKay was unavailable for comment today.

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