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5 March 1998 Edition

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Parades Commission a kick in the teeth

By Laura Friel

DUBLIN government recommendations were ignored by Mo Mowlam when she announced appointments to the Parades Commission last week.

Irish ministers are believed to be outraged at the snub. Mowlam not only disregarded a list of possible nominees from Dublin but selected appointees which copperfasten the Commission's pro-unionist agenda.

The appointment of ex UDA leader Glenn Barr, Ballynafeigh Apprentice Boy Tommy Cheevers, a former member of the Police Authority Roseanne McCormack and a solicitor for the Police Federation, Aidan Canavan evoked nationalist anger throughout Ireland.

To the acute embarrassment of London, a photograph taken in 1989, showing Tommy Cheevers as part of an Orange Order guard of honour at the funeral of UVF killer John Bingham, appeared in the media last week. Cheevers described the sectarian killer as ``a longtime friend.''

Undaunted, the Commission has embarked on a massive public relations campaign. In a leaflet entitled ``What's it all about?'' the fears of unionists are exclusively addressed, nationalist concerns are simply ignored.

The Commission's offensive opens a second front next week with a trip to America. Chairperson Alastair Graham and Secretary Richard Buchanan will be accompanied by the Commission's media spindoctor Richard Gordon.

Fearful residents of the Lower Ormeau Road are calling for the immediate return of documents submitted by them to the Commission following the appointment of Barr and Cheevers.

 

A bit of balance



By Laurence McKeown

I'm sure I wasn't alone last week in thinking that I had tuned into the latest skit from the Hole in the Wall Gang, or possibly it was the ``Village Eejits'' on Triple FM (The ``Station Once Again'' which is back broadcasting from West Belfast to a delighted community.) I then wondered if possibly I had missed a month somehow and maybe it was 1 April?

I quickly consulted newspapers of the day. No, I wasn't dreaming. I had heard correctly. Glenn Barr and Tommy Cheevers had been appointed to the Parades Commission. With others they discuss and then decide whether or not the loyal orders could continue to march wherever and whenever they willed.

It took a little while for the news to sink in but as I began to ponder it a bit more deeply I thought it wasn't such a bad idea after all to have a member of one of the orders put forward his argument as to why they should be allowed to continue to strut their stuff through villages and districts where the local populace find their displays offensive. Maybe, when confronted in debate, a dim light would begin to shine somewhere in the far off recesses of his mind. A big question mark might appear. The first shock waves of doubt might wash over Tommy. Or, alternatively, he would convince all others with the sheer logic of his argument.

Glenn Barr offers a different experience. Glenn isn't so much into walking the roads. His forte is in blocking them, as in the UWC strike of 1974.

Before accepting the appointment Glenn consulted with loyalist paramilitaries. Fair enough. At least he's honest about it. Many others from the unionist community frequently consult with loyalist paramilitaries but don't have the nerve to admit it. In fact, they go to great lengths to deny such links.

So there we have it. Representation from a fairly broad cross-section of the Protestant/loyalist/Unionist community on how parades should be handled. I agree totally with that. Delighted that the NIO for once are choosing people who can truly articulate the feelings and opinions of their community.

My problem lies with those selected to represent the Catholic/nationalist community.This is where the whole thing becomes a bit surreal, a good bit surreal, or comic, or mad, or insulting, or puzzling. I haven't worked out exactly which yet.

One of them - I won't even metion their names as they are unknown to anyone but the NIO - but one of them, a barrister, was a member of the Police (sic) Authority for six years. That distinguished body of people which even the most conservative, law abiding, right wing member of the SDLP wouldn't grace with their presence.

The other candidate, a solicitor, was the choice of the RUC to defend it against charges that it operated a shoot-to-kill policy against republicans. There you have it. Representation from a good broad cross-section of the Alliance voters.

The common domoninator in all of this is, apart from the Uncle Toms, very cleary the RUC. Strange isn't it that it was effectively the RUC, in the figure of its Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan, who decided that Sinn Fein should be put out of the talks. He's now apparently deciding political appointments to QUANGOs (or they are being made with a mind to what is acceptable to him).

I can just imagine him in the aftermath of this coming year's Drumcree 4 speaking amidst the shattered hopes and bodies of the Garvaghy Road residents about how his force was simply carrying out decisions made by a body broadly representative of ``both communities'' blah, blah, blah.

I just wonder too what the response would have been from the unionist community if Gerard Rice or Brendan Mc Kenna had been appointed to the Parades Commission as a counter argument to Cheevers? With maybe the likes of, let's say, Martin Meehan to tackle Glenn Barr? Apoplexy? Even the Hole in the Wall Gang or the Village Eejits in their wildest dreams would never come up with that one.

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