The Community Relations Council (CRC) has responded to the public consultation by OFMDFM on a Code of Conduct for Parades and Public Assemblies. While strongly supporting the production of a Code of Conduct CRC in its submission argues that the draft code needs to be clearer and more user-friendly.
15 September 2010
CRC is pleased that the draft Code recognises the need in areas of sensitivity for parade and protest organisers and participants not to use words or actions which are threatening or sectarian or wear clothing or uniforms or carry flags which have paramilitary associations. CRC believes these requirements should not be confined only to areas of sensitivity but should be generic requirements regardless of the location of the parade route or protest. CRC is concerned that the draft code should not be a regression from the current code of the Parades Commission which imposes restrictions on paramilitary displays and its associated dress, flags and musical instruments ‘at any time during a public procession’.
The draft Code sets out rules and regulations to address negative behaviour and CRC believes that the Code should also encourage those engaged in parades and protests to recognise the consequences of present and past division and to promote good relations.
The CRC response in summary:
· Council supports the production of a Code of Conduct.
· The draft Code of Conduct is not clear enough, and its length and content make for a complex system of guidance.
· Council is pleased that the sensitive location category has been retained and would like to see it strengthened with the inclusion of categories from the existing code e.g. interfaces
· The draft code describes actions the organiser and participants must take at sensitive locations such as restricted time for playing music, not using words or behaviour which are threatening or sectarian, not wearing clothing, or uniforms referring to paramilitary activity, or flying flags related to paramilitary organisations (noted in appendix 4).
· Council believes that these requirements should not be limited to areas of sensitivity and are not generic requirements regardless of the location or route of a parade or counter protest.
· CRC recommends the amendment of the draft code to ensure these conditions are applicable for all parades and counter protests - not just areas of sensitivity.
· The Code also examines the role of stewards – but CRC would like more detail on aspects such as Training, steward numbers, identification and communication.
· The code sets out rules and regulations to address potential negative behaviour and organisation at parades and protests. CRC believes that it is vitally important to encourage those engaged in the parades and protests to promote good relations.
· Council believes that the final code of conduct needs to made easily accessible and user friendly. The guidance for dealing with harassment, intimidation, paramilitary symbols, flags and emblems etc should be applicable to every parade and counter protest – regardless of the location.
· The code should be monitored closely and breaches reported back to the regulatory body with a clear system of penalties. It is important that the various steps of the process are mapped against human rights and good relations. The implementation of a code of conduct, appropriate training for all those involved and accurate monitoring and post evaluation will help strengthen the position of all those involved in parading.
The full CRC submission is available to download here