THE DUP has pressed for explanations after it found that three members of the Parades Commission have been meeting with officials from the Irish government.
East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell used the Freedom of Information Act to uncover details of seven occasions when the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) gave hospitality to three members of the Parades Commission from January until July this year.
“Each commissioner affected should give an explanation for their dealing with the Department of Foreign Affairs,” Mr Campbell said.
“Parades are an internal matter for Northern Ireland and the Republic’s government does not have a role with our internal governance issues. I am in favour of cooperation between our two countries on matters of mutual interest but explanations are required for both the content and extent of these discussions.”
Parades Commission chairman Peter Osborne received hospitality from the DFA three times in the period, on March 29, 2012, June 8, 2012 and February 15, 2012.
Commissioner Brian Kennaway received DFA hospitality twice in the period and on one other occasion received joint Northern Ireland Office/DFA hospitality, the DUP said. Commissioners Francis Nolan and Delia Close were offered joint NIO/DFA hospitality on one occasion which Francis Nolan declined, the party added.
A spokesperson for the Parades Commission replied: “Engagement with a wide range of parties interested in parading issues is a normal part of a commissioner’s duties; this will include attendance at functions and lunches.
“The Parades Commission chairman, Peter Osborne, and commissioner, Rev Brian Kennaway, have received invitations to a small number of functions in Northern Ireland hosted by the Irish Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs. These have included large events such as a St Patrick’s Day function and a number of lunch engagements. Commissioners are required to declare all such hospitality.”
A spokeswoman for the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs responded: “Officials from the Irish government, including those in the British Irish Intergovernmental Secretariat, maintain relationships with political institutions and civic organisations in Northern Ireland in support of peace and reconciliation on this island.”