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31 January 2008 Edition

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Hain parades appointments were unlawful

Peter Hain

Peter Hain

A decision by Peter Hain, when he was Britain's direct ruler in the Six Counties, to appoint two Orangemen to the North’s Parades Commission was unlawful, according to a ruling issued today by Britain’s Law Lords.
The House of Lords overturned a majority Court of Appeal judgment that the appointment of Portadown Orangemen David Burrows and Donald Mackay to the Parades Commission was valid.
The dispute was taken to the House of Lords by residents who complained that no representation had been sought from residents’ groups.
Donald Mackay has since resigned from the Commission after it emerged that he listed Democratic Unionist MP David Simpson and SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly as referees without seeking their permission.
The residents, who initially won their case in the High Court, complained that Peter Hain had written to the main political parties, the four main churches and the loyalist orders during the appointments process, but had not sought applications from any residents’ group. In their majority decision, the appeal judges said Peter Hain was not required to achieve a balance between individual members of the body.
But one member of the House of Lords, Lord Bingham said on Wednesday, 30 January: “I feel bound to conclude that the decision to appoint Mr Burrows and Mr Mackay was one which a reasonable Secretary of State could not have made if properly directing himself in law, if seized of the relevant facts and if taking into account considerations which, in this context, he was bound to take into account.”
Sinn Féin Upper Bann MLA John O’Dowd has said the House of Lords ruling is a damming indictment of the  malevolent interference of the Northern Ireland Office in the Six Counties.
O’Dowd said:
“This ruling that these appointments were improper and unlawful exposes the attempt by Peter Hain to politically interfere in the work of the Parades Commission by introducing a pro-Orange Order bias.
“It is a damming indictment of the NIO and its political agenda.
“The reality is that the NIO or certainly elements within it have never been comfortable with equal rights for nationalists and have at every twist and turn attempted to undermine the significant political progress that has been achieved in recent years.
“The response of the Parades Commission to these appointments was disappointing and did not help in building nationalist confidence that it was able to operate with the required level of impartiality and independence that is needed in dealing with the sensitive issue of contested parades. It now has to demonstrate, through its actions and determinations, that it will give full and proper respect to the rights of nationalists who do not want to have Orange marches forced through their communities.”
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