Challenge to commission over arch

Upper Bann MP David Simpson
Upper Bann MP David Simpson

Only evidence given by nationalists is of value when important decisions around Orange parades are being taken, a DUP MP has said.

David Simpson made his views known in a hard-hitting letter to the Parades Commission following the body’s U-turn over a planned arch dedication in Portadown tonight.

The Upper Bann MP is angry at what he calls a “disingenuous approach” in not granting a review of the latest determination – which bans a local lodge from Victoria Terrace at the lower end of the Garvaghy Road.

The parade route was initially agreed by the commission. However, the decision was revised after representations from the Garvaghy Road Residents’ Coalition and the lodge will not now be able to access the Parkmount Arch.

The arch committee had applied for a parade of dedication in memory of member Ivan Forbes who died in January. A spokesman for the commission said there would be no further review as the request “does not contain new information or representations”.

Mr Simpson has now written to the commission listing several points – including a rejection of a claim that many within the migrant community living close to the Orange arch were opposed to the parade.

“It [the ban] stands, then the implication is clear. In terms of this Parades Commission, it is only new nationalist evidence that counts or is believed. The bias is obvious and demonstrable.”

Yesterday, a joint delegation of the DUP, UUP, PUP, TUV, UPRG and Orange Order met with the Secretary of State over what they called “the exacerbating situation” around parades.

A delegation spokesman said: “The 7th June determination on the homeward Crumlin Road parade, and the recent U-turn on the Portadown arch parade, has created a crisis of confidence in the Parades Commission.”

In response to concerns expressed by the SDLP’s Dolores Kelly – that the recently appointed members of the commission are experiencing interference from the Northern Ireland Office – an NIO spokeswoman said: “Determinations are an operational matter for the Parades Commission, acting independently of the government, in exercise of their powers under the Public Processions (NI) Act 1998. The Secretary of State plays no role in that process and has no influence on decisions which they make.”

Meanwhile, DUP MP Nigel Dodds has called for the police to investigate a report quoting GARC spokesman Dee Fennell as saying they would use “radical means” to stop any Orange parade past the Ardoyne area.