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30 January 1997 Edition

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North Report storm before publication

By Eoin O'Broin

Speculation regarding the contents of the North report into disputed parades, to be released today 30 January, has led many commentators to predict that both the Unionists and the British government will respond negatively.

One newspaper report suggested that the report will be shelved until after the Westminster election.

UTV news said that the report recommends that the RUC lose its authority to decide on contentious marches, and a new three to five person statutory body with executive powers would take their place. The North commission has refused to comment on any of the leaks.

However the leaked proposals have caused a strong reaction from the Orange Order and unionist politicians. One Grand Orange Lodge spokesperson stated; ``This commission...represents a serious shift, not only in legal terms but also in constitutional terms because what we are having here are a denial of fundamental human rights, such as the right of free assembly''. Ian Paisley called the North commission a ``stop processions quango''.

Speaking on behalf of the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community, Gerard Rice called for a fundamental redefinition of the right to march ``if proposals for a parading tribunal are to have any success''. He added, ``if the proposed tribunal is unduly constrained by existing considerations to public order and tradition then it is certain to fail and the North body will merely be passing the `poisoned chalice' of parades to someone else''.

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