Orange Order should be trained to police themselves, report finds

The Orange Order should be trained to police themselves, a panel commissioned by SNP ministers has recommended. It added that a Northern Ireland-style parades commission is not necessary.

The panel said funding could be allocated for steward training and developing communication and mediation skills in order to relieve pressure on the police during marching season.

The Northern Irish Parades Commission has the power to re-route or cancel marches that risked raising tensions or causing violence, however the group which met for five months decided it would not be necessary.

In Scotland this is delegated to local authorities.

The report was commissioned as thousands marched in Glasgow in September last year which resulted in 14 arrests and ‘racist and sectarian singing,’ according to Police Scotland.

A spokesperson for the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said that while the Church acknowledges the right to parade in accordance with the law, it expected ‘that the routine and timing of marches does not cause difficulties or anxiety for parishioners attending their local church.’

“It is for the police and local authorities to ensure safety and public order are paramount when considering applications to parade, recognising that the right to freedom of expression is not an unrestricted right,” they said.

“The conclusions of the working group appear to take these considerations into account.”

Justice Secretary Keith Brown said that marching, parading, and protesting was of ‘great importance to many people in Scotland for cultural, community, and political reasons.’

“But in doing this we must also ensure that the rights of those seeking to go about their business undisturbed are also protected,” he said.

Jeanette Findlay, Chair of Call it Out, said the report was flawed but some of the suggestions were useful.

“It’s disappointing that they didn’t mention that Call it Out’s campaign is what made this a live political issue, and that they met representatives from the Orange Order three times and only one from our community and no one from the Church,” she said.

However, she said it was positive that the report ‘recognises that this is not Northern Ireland, and we don’t need a Parades Commission.’

“The fact they say the impact of a march needs to be considered, not just who is marching is a step forward,” she went on.

“It also gestures towards more democratic oversight of the decisions on whether to place conditions on marches and the routes they use.

“That could end the buck-passing between councils and the police and mean we can make progress on stopping these marches going past our churches.” 

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