Since the Parades Commission was established in 1998, the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland (GOLI) has been opposed to it, calling for this public body, which adjudicates on the exercise of fundamental freedoms, to be scrapped. However, refusal to engage with the Parades Commission and relentless criticism of the same is not enough. One must also be able to propose a valid alternative to replace it with and have a plan to see it implemented.
Following the most recent decisions made in relation to public processions in Ardoyne (North Belfast) the Orange Order is now concentrating all its attention and energy on the elimination of the Parades Commission. Even if this is achieved, however, it will not bring any resolution to the issues that have to be considered and dealt with concerning public processions. The real challenge for the Orange Order is to be able to submit a proposal for a new public body, which will operate a decision-making process that will result in the right to freedom of peaceful assembly being upheld.
Over the past fifteen years a number of proposals have been prepared. In 2002 the Quigley Report was produced but rapidly disregarded. In 2008 the Strategic Review of Parading in Northern Ireland (SRPNI) was published but also set aside. In 2010, following the Hillsborough Agreement, the proposed new legislation for public processions was rejected by the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland. All these proposals had in common that they all stemmed from the North Report, which led to the creation of the Parades Commission. They were based on the same concepts and approaches but developed further, making the system even more complex and burdensome.
In the coming months once again vigilance will be required so as to prevent renewed attempts to impose arrangements that would be hybrids of the one successfully rejected by the Orange Order three years ago.
What is now needed is a proposal that will bring about a new approach to the resolution of issues and which conforms to the following requirements:
- First, the future arrangements will have to be based on fundamental principles, which would support and promote the right to freedom of peaceful assembly associated with the right to freedom of religion that are both exercised by the Orange Order when processing;
- Second, the decision-making process will have to conform to the guidance provided by the judgements rendered by the House of Lords (the Supreme Court) and the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland in the Case of Dunloy Orange Lodge 496;
- Third, the notification procedure will have to be simple and the new public body easily accessible to everyone who wishes to exercise his/her fundamental rights in a democratic society.
If it wants to succeed, the Orange Order must not only oppose the Parades Commission but approve an alternative that would meet the requirements mentioned above.