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BBC NI's Julian O'Neill
BBC NI's Julian O'Neill:Parades chairman worked in 'difficult circumstances'
 real 28k

Sir Josias Cunningham
Future has tremendous potential
 real 28k

Friday, 31 December, 1999, 19:06 GMT
Top honour for parades chairman

Alistair Graham: Honoured for role as mediator

The Chairman of the Northern Ireland Parades Commission, Alistair Graham, and the Ulster Unionist President, Josias Cunningham, have received knighthoods in the New Year's Honours List.

The Ballymena born actor Liam Neeson is also among the 98 recipients from Northern Ireland. He receives an OBE.

Sir Alistair Graham said his knighthood is an honour for all his staff.

Mr Graham, 57, has been the central figure in determining the fate of Northern Ireland's bitterly contested parades dispute for nearly three years.

It has been a privilege to work in Northern Ireland
Sir Alistair Graham
He is due to step down from the chairmanship of the Parades Commission in February.

However, he said progress had been made on the subject.

He said: "I would warmly encourage those who have shown real leadership, often in very difficult circumstances, to participate in local dialogue and to seek to achieve local understanding about the actual background to parades."

Northumberland-born Mr Graham said it had been "a privilege" to work in Northern Ireland when its people were determining their future destiny.

'Amazed by award'

Ulster Unionist President, Sir Josias Cunningham, said he was amazed at his award and spoke of the need for positive thinking in the coming weeks.

He said: "I think one has to keep optimistic, one has to keep positive.

"We do need to see some movement, there is no doubt. If there is some movement, I think the future is absolutely wide open with tremendous potential."

Described as an elder statesman within the Ulster Unionist Party, Mr Cunningham has been president of the UUP Council since 1990.

Born into a farming family in south Co Antrim nearly 66 years ago and educated at Cambridge, he is a Deputy Grand Master of the Orange Order.

Among the police officers honoured is Superintendent James Baxter, the RUC commander in Omagh at the time of the terrorist bomb attack which killed 29 people in August 1998.

He receives the Queen's Police Medal.

Les Rodgers: Representing rank and file RUC officers
Also honoured is the Chief Executive of the Probation Service, Breidge Gadd, who has worked with offenders for 30 years.

She said her CBE was recognition for her and her colleagues.

Police Federation chairman, Les Rodgers, has been awarded the MBE.

The list also included:

  • Allan Rainey, a member of the Ulster Unionist Party and chairman of Omagh District Council. He becomes an MBE for services to the community and to local government.
  • Sandra Peake, director of victims' group Widows Against Violence Empower (WAVE), also becomes MBE for services to people bereaved and traumatised.
  • Northern Ireland State Pathologist Derek Carson is awarded the OBE.
  • Belfast Telegraph farming correspondent Michael Drake who becomes an MBE for services to journalism.
  • Tom McDevitte, best known for his Barney McCool column in the Tyrone Constitution, also becomes an MBE.
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    See also:
    31 Dec 99 |  Northern Ireland
    Star Wars actor gets OBE
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    Northern Ireland's New Year honours
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