Alliance Responds to Public Assemblies and Parades Consultation

The Alliance Party has released its response to the OFMDFM consultation on Public Assemblies and Parades. The party stresses the importance of addressing parades in conjunction with a new strategy for community relations. While open to the new proposals on parades, Alliance is opposed to the new proposals for regulating public assemblies.

Alliance Party Justice Spokesperson, Stephen Farry commented:

“A revised approach to resolving disputes around parades is more than simply a matter for those wishing to parade and those wishing to object. Contentious parades are something that can affect the entire community. Disputes can lead to public order problems, with implications for community relations, public finances and Northern Ireland’s reputation.

“Alliance respects the role performed by the Parades Commission. It itself was not the problem. The problem remains the deep divisions and territoriality within the community.

“That said, Alliance is open to different mechanisms for managing parades, and for providing mediation and arbitration. We welcome a rights based approach for making determinations rather than one of territory. Success will not be found in isolation of a new policy for community relations.

“We are generally content with the proposals, with the major exception of those relating to public assemblies. The current proposals are a threat to civil liberties.

“Alliance accepts that it is proper for the state to seek to regulate public assemblies. However, Alliance believes that (a.) the current qualifying threshold for regulation of 50 persons; (b.) the proposed notification period of 37 days; and (c.) the potential penalties are all disproportionate in terms of the application of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. All three aspects do need to be reviewed and significantly revised. Indeed, consideration should be given to removing some or all of this aspect of the proposed legislation.

“Given freedom of expression, it is not for the state to determine what type of protests is acceptable or not. However, the impact of the current proposals would create considerable restrictions on a wide range of activities. One notable example that would have fallen foul of these proposals would have been the spontaneous cross-community religious service that was held in Antrim on the morning after the brutal murder of two soldiers at Massereene Barracks in March 2009.”

Link to the Alliance Party consultation response on their website:

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