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North Belfast Civil Rights Association statement

Parades commission suppressing civil rights, claims North Belfast spokesman

18 January 2014

In a statement today the chairperson of the North Belfast Civil Rights Association condemned the decision of the Parades Commission to restrict a February 1st March in North Belfast.

Paul Little said that the NBCRA have a number of concerns regarding the parades Commissions decisions, those concerns are primarily that it is a thinly veiled attack on civil liberties and a real lack of transparency around the Stormont regimes secret political influence on the commission.

"In doing so the Commission is breaking new ground that has very serious implications for democratic rights. We intend to protest their determination and to contact trade unions, political parties, community groups and human rights organizations to force a withdrawal of this unjust determination," he said.

"The commission is moving beyond managing sectarian confrontation to decide on the everyday business of protest around political, industrial and human rights. To have an unelected body exercise unrestricted control of the right to demonstrate is totally undemocratic, all the more so when the decisions are arbitrary, unexplained and when one determination contradicts the next.

Other issues arise from this decision. To protest against sectarianism is defined as itself sectarian - an idea once confined to the far edges of Loyalism. The NBCRA, although open to all, organising openly through public meetings and with political demands no democrat could oppose, is cast as a sectarian force. As a result of this slur its ability to organise is obstructed and its members and supporters put at risk. The area we are banned from is also redefined, in some way moving from a perfectly open public space to in some sense being given into the ownership of our loyalist opponents.

The NBCRA are also calling on Sinn Fein to make public and publish their submission to the Parades Commission in regards to the ‘March for Houses’ demonstration on the 1st of February.

This democratic and legitimate demonstration has been excluded from entering Carrickhill.

Whilst we recognize the confidentiality of the parades Commission submissions, we believe that the confidentiality is to protect the rights of the individual citizen. It is not for the Stormont Executive or representatives of a government political party in the executive to make clandestine and secret submissions against those that it views as its political opponents.

It is imperative that Sinn Fein make public their submission in the interests of government transparency and accountable democracy.

The common view is that the modern Irish troubles arose from the suppression of a Civil Rights March in Derry on 5th October 1968. By all indications the Parades Commission would have taken the same decision as the RUC at the time.


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