LAGAN Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson said yesterday that recent trouble has demonstrated the need for an �effective mechanism to deal with parades and, in particular, violent protests�.

The DUP man was speaking as a consultation period on the Parades Bill closed.

�Our view that parades should not be simply rushed on to the agenda each summer has been vindicated and that is why fair and sensible legislation to deal with this matter is necessary,� said Mr Donaldson.

�I fully expect that most consultation responses will be constructive and will help us improve the bill and make it more effective.�

Mr Donaldson said he has been �very disappointed� by what he termed as �the lack of maturity amongst some politicians who have sought to turn this draft bill into a political battering-ram�.

The Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests Bill was drawn up following the report of the Working Group on Parades, which was set up following agreement on the devolution of policing and justice at Hillsborough earlier this year.

If passed, it will replace the government-appointed Parades Commission with a new system focused on securing local agreement in the relatively small number of locations where parades remain contentious.
The draft bill hit the headlines last week when Grand Orange Lodge voted narrowly to reject the plan, although it has been claimed attendance at the meeting was poor.

Senior members were understood to be furious at the outcome of the vote and Grand Lodge officers are due to meet again on the issue.
Widespread concerns have been expressed by a proposal within the draft bill that places restrictions on impromptu public gatherings of more than 50 people.

The Alliance Party, Traditional Unionist Voice, trade unions, the Committee on the Administration of Justice CAJ and Amnesty International have all expressed concern over the issue.

Alliance justice spokesperson Stephen Farry said: �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.�

The TUV pointed out that open-air religious services involving more than 50 people would be affected and would require 37 days notice.
Party leader Jim Allister slammed the proposals as �deeply flawed�, describing them as �an unacceptable assault on religious freedom�.

�The draft legislation is hopelessly flawed and ill-conceived. Its remit should be restricted to parading with open air and religious public meetings excluded from the bill.

�The labyrinth of bureaucracy and notification periods imposed on parade organisers is unacceptable and unnecessary.�
CAJ director Mike Ritchie said the DUP and Sinn Fein must renegotiate the legislation.

A spokeswoman for the Office of First and Deputy First Minister said it has received 400 individual responses to the Parades consultation

Published date on the 15th of July 2010
Article taken from the The News Letter