19 May 2006

Parades body manipulated

Daily Ireland

NIO is blasted over what is seen as attempt to affect make-up of march quango - Minister asked DUP MP and Orange chief to urge members to apply for jobs

BY Ciarán Barnes

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usFormer security minister Shaun Woodward encouraged leading members of the loyal orders to apply for posts on the new Parades Commission during a hush-hush meeting last autumn, Daily Ireland has learned.
The Labour MP met Orange Order Grand Master Robert Saulters and Democratic Unionist Party MP Nigel Dodds on September 7 to discuss controversial parades in the North.
A senior Northern Ireland Office official, whose name is known to Daily Ireland, also attended.
During the meeting, Mr Woodward encouraged Mr Saulters and Mr Dodds to ask members of the loyal orders to apply for positions on the new Parades Commission.
The NIO official then wrote to the leaders of the Orange Order, the Apprentice Boys and the Royal Black Institution asking for opinions on who should be appointed.
Within weeks, Co Armagh Orangemen David Burrows and Don MacKay were appointed to the seven-strong commission. At no time were nationalist residents’ groups encouraged to apply or consulted on whom should be appointed.
British secretary of state Peter Hain oversaw the appointment process.
Sinn Féin assembly member John O’Dowd accused Mr Hain of behaving like the “lord viceroy of Ireland”.
“The appointment procedure is in place to protect the rights of all in society. To abuse the procedure is to abuse the rights of all in society,” he said.
SDLP assembly member Dolores Kelly said it was clear the NIO had “interfered” with the appointment process.
She said: “I have to ask why this meeting took place. Was the NIO offering concessions to the DUP? I am very sceptical.”
A spokesman for the NIO confirmed Mr Woodward had met Mr Dodds and Mr Saulters on September 7.
Mr Woodward was replaced as security minister in an NIO shake-up last week. He was overseas and unavailable for comment yesterday.
A judge is to rule in the High Court in Belfast today on the legality of the appointment of Mr Burrows and Mr MacKay to the Parades Commission.
Mr MacKay resigned from his post this week. It had been revealed he had listed two referees on his application without having asked for their permission.
Mr Burrows also listed a referee on his application without asking permission.
He has so far resisted calls to resign.
Yesterday the Parades Commission granted the Orange Order permission to march along a disputed section of the Garvaghy Road in Portadown, Co Armagh.
The Parkmount junior Orange lodge will parade past nationalist homes on Parkmount and Victoria Terrace on May 27.
Residents had opposed the march, which will pass along the part of the Garvaghy Road where DUP leader Ian Paisley and former Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble did their infamous celebratory jig in 1995.

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