UUP issues proposals on parades, flags, past

The UUP's party leader Mike Nesbitt, Tom Elliott and Danny Kennedy talks to the press after their meeting with Richard Haass in December.
The UUP's party leader Mike Nesbitt, Tom Elliott and Danny Kennedy talks to the press after their meeting with Richard Haass in December.

The UUP says the legacy of the Troubles must be resolved by affirming Northern Ireland’s position within the UK and by refusing to rewrite history to let those responsible for terrorism off the hook.

In the mouth of pending elections, the party today publishes a 16-page report entitled ‘Proposals for parades and protests, flags and dealing with the past’ which unpacks its views on the issues in the wake of the Haass talks.

The party says the Dublin government should have no say on flags or parades.

The party’s proposals appear to take a fairly firm stance across a number of issues that will likely provoke stiff opposition among nationalists and republicans.

“Clearly, flags and parading are ‘Strand One’ issues, to use the language of the Belfast Agreement, and as such, there is no role for the government of the Republic of Ireland in addressing these,” the report says.

However, it does have questions to answer, the party says, on “the role of Irish government ministers in the birth of the Provisional IRA” and “collusion” between agents of the Irish state and the IRA.

On flags, the report proposes that all parties “reaffirm Northern Ireland’s constitutional position” in the UK.

There is also a need for an agreed list of days when the Union Flag is flown from official government flagpoles.

“Where there is political support, councils may agree additional days. The one exception would be Belfast City Hall, which, as a totemic structure, and main civic building of our capital city, should revert to the policy of 365.”

Regarding parades and protests, the UUP says it believes that “our streets belong to the people, who should be free to assemble as they wish, in a lawful and

respectful manner”.

It calls for a new adjudication body, which operates “in a fully transparent and accountable manner, including the application of set criteria in reaching determinations” and an appeals process which is independent of the adjudication body.

“The Ardoyne and Drumcree parades should be allowed to complete their routes,” the report says.

“This will create a new dynamic and demonstrate a generosity of spirit not seen before.”

On dealing with the past, the party says it was “appalled” by the use in the Haass process of the phrase “government and non-government” bodies.

“This equated PIRA, the UDA, UVF and the other terrorist groups with NGOs, such as the British Red Cross and Christian Aid,” the report says.

The party proposes a pension for those severely injured in the Troubles, victims and survivors being exempt from reassessment under welfare reform and an historical clarification group, which would write a balanced history of the Troubles.

The Historical Enquiries Team should be restarted but overseen by the Association of Chief Police Officers, and an accessible advocacy service for all victims and survivors should be formed, the party says.

The UUP wishes to see an end to ‘supergrass’ trials where informants are granted immunity from prosecution and recommends that the European courts are engaged to ensure fair application of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights to legacy coroners’ courts.

Lastly, it calls for the rescinding of all on the run letters, with a full re-examination of each case.

The ambition must be to complete the processes quickly, because citizens deserve the chance to enjoy the peaceful society the UUP envisaged in 1998, it concludes.