Parades powers need to be strengthened

An Alliance Party delegation today met with Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland and other senior officers to discuss policy on parades, bonfires and flags arising out of this summer’s incidents.

Speaking after the meeting, David Ford stated:

“Contentious parades are first and foremost a community relations issue rather than a policing matter. But when the community fail to resolve disputes, they become a policing issue. It is not right to leave the police in the middle in a no-win situation.

“Alliance supports the concept of a Parades Commission. Where no agreement can be found, an independent body should be making determinations that reflect the circumstances on the ground rather than who is threatening greater force. It is then for the police to implement these decisions. With greater transparency, there is less chance for unrealistic expectations to be created.

“This summer has highlighted major discrepancies in the Parades legislation. It is clear the powers of the Parades Commission must be strengthened, well in advance of next year’s marching season. To be fair to the police, this is something that would find favour with them too.

“Alliance recognised the major efforts taken by the police in relation to paramilitary flags, but there is still much work to be done. The convictions in Holywood have created a new context. Fewer flags have been erected, and where they have, the police have had a considerable number of them removed with or without consent.

“Bonfires and the improper use of national flags remains a major problem. This is not just a policing problem, but one for all agencies including the Housing Executive, the Roads Service and District Councils. Over the next few weeks, Alliance will be preparing some proposals in this area.”

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