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7 May 1998 Edition

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Apprentice Boys refuse to talk to residents

By Laura Friel

``Totally unacceptable'' and ``arrogant'', is how spokesperson Donncha MacNiallais has described Derry's Apprentice Boys' call for the Bogside Residents Group to be excluded from the city's forum to discuss forthcoming contentious parades. The Apprentice Boys, the Orange Order and Unionist Parties all boycotted last Friday's opening session of the parades forum, convened by the city's mayor at the behest of local clergy and business people. A spokesperson for the Apprentice Boys, Willie Hay said the organisation would only take part if the Bogside residents association were excluded. BRG spokesperson Donncha MacNiallais described himself as ``deeply disappointed'' at the Apprentice Boys response. ``I think it is very arrogant of Mr Hay to seek to exclude anyone'', MacNiallais said. In the wake of the Good Friday agreement, the Ulster Unionists decision to boycott the forum was `ludicrous', said MacNiallais. Unionists are expected to enter an Assembly with representatives of the nationalist community, ``how do they square that with their refusal to engage at a local level,'' asked MacNiallais. ``Members of the DUP and Apprentice Boys apparently have no problem sharing a platform with a convicted LVF activist, yet are unwilling to participate in a forum if BRG representatives are present. This kind of sectarian bigotry is unacceptable,'' said MacNiallais.

Meanwhile remarks by Glen Barr, a loyalist appointee who recently resigned from the Parades Commission have been challenged by the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community. Describing the boycott decision as ``fully justified'', Barr said unionist politicians and loyal orders should not enter into the forum with nationalist residents groups. ``The Apprentice Boys and Orange Order have realised that negotiation with these groups is pointless,'' said Barr. Glen Barr's views are clearly at odds with the role of a Parades Commissioner as envisaged by Professor North, said the LOCC. ``These are clearly not views which Glen Barr has come to since his resignation from the Parades Commission. No person who held such extreme views was a fit and proper person to carry out the function of a parades commissioner.'' Describing the appointment of Barr as a serious error of judgement, the LOCC said a similar error had been made with other appointments. ``We believe that all the other appointments made during this flawed process should be rescinded and that a new independent, impartial and fair commission be appointed,'' said the LOCC.

Earlier the legal challenge by a member of the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community against the four controversial appointments to the Parades Commission had been thrown out of the High Court in Belfast. Judge Kerr said that the application for a judicial review with regard to Glen Barr and Tommy Cheevers couldn't proceed because they had both resigned from the commission.

He went on to claim that it wasn't his function to state if the other two appointees, Aidan Canavan and Rose Anne McCormick, were representative of their community nor to `second guess' Direct Ruler Mowlam. Canavan was a member of the SDLP and is a partner in a solicitors firm which works for the `Police' Federation. McCormick was a former member of the `Police' Authority.

Gerard Rice, spokesperson for the LOCC, said after the hearing that he was surprised at the Judge's decision. ``The four recent appointments severely damaged the independence of the Commission'' he said.
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