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Friday, October 8, 1999 Published at 19:25 GMT 20:25 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

Parades chairman to step down

The Parades Commission has ruled on several Orange Order marches

The chairman and several members of the Northern Ireland Parades Commission are to step down at the end of their current term in February 2000.

Northern Ireland secretary Mo Mowlam issued an invitation for applications to their posts as she announced a review of the workings of the body which adjudicates on contentious parades.

The Search for Peace
Friday's announcement follows unionist calls for the body to be scrapped because they disagreed with several of its decisions.

"Alistair Graham made clear when he was re-appointed as chairman in November 1998 that he intended to step down in February 2000.

Alistair Graham: Government review is only to improve already successful body
"Several members have also indicated a wish to step down," Dr Mowlam said, adding her heartfelt thanks to the outgoing commission chairman and members.

The Parades Commission has been at the centre of controversy since its establishment following the election of the Labour government in May 1997.

[ image: Commission chairman Alistair Graham: wants to step down]
Commission chairman Alistair Graham: wants to step down
The Orange Order has consistently refused to meet the commission because of its ban on its July march along the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown.

Nationalist groups have also condemned the body, especially following its decision to allow the Apprentice Boys parade along the Garvaghy Road in August.

A number of policemen and protesters were hurt following violent confrontations before the parade.

The terms of the review were announced on Friday and are as follows.

"Within the existing framework of law and structures, and taking into account of views received from interested parties and the experience of the marching seasons over the last two years, to consider:

  • possible ways of achieving even greater acceptance of the approach to handling contentious parades and, in particular,

  • the arrangements for mediation;

    and to report to ministers by the end of December, 1999."

    The review has been welcomed Mr Graham who said the Parades Commission had sought it following consultation with government ministers.


    "We have had useful discussions with ministers on the need for and the terms of this review and are encouraged by what it sets out to do," he said.

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    He particularly welcomed the review's stated aim to assess the commission's role as a mediator.

    "The review will however have to address the genuine tension between adjudicating on contentious parades, while having a statutory duty to facilitate mediation.

    "The first few years of a body such as the Parades Commission are bound to be difficult, and we have not been disappointed in that regard."

    Mr Graham said that the commission had achieved "real progress".

    He counted face to face discussions and peaceful solutions in a number of locations among the successes of the commission.

    He called for all interested parties to make "constructive inputs" which he hoped would lead to "genuine long term co-operation between the commission and those most directly involved in the parades issue".

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