THE Grand Secretary of the Orange Order in Northern Ireland urged Nicola Sturgeon not to introduce a parade commission – claiming it would be “biased” against Protestants.
Reverend Mervyn Gibson said the introduction of a Northern Ireland-style commission would lead to more “division” and “intolerance”.
He urged SNP ministers “not to dance to the tune of a small number of Roman Catholic demonstrators who do not want a Protestant in the place”.
The Prime Minister said on Thursday she was considering setting up a Northern Irish-style commission following 14 arrests during the Orange marches last weekend.
James Dornan (below), MSP SNP from Glasgow Cathcart, raised the issue at the FMQs and outlined his case in an article for The National on Sunday.
Speaking in Holyrood, Dornan noted reports of “shameful anti-Catholic chants during Orange Order marches through Glasgow” and said at least three marched past Roman Catholic churches, prompting a “great distress”.
He asked the Prime Minister to consider “the creation of a parade commission, similar to that of Northern Ireland”.
Created in 1998, this parades commission has the power to cancel, re-route or modify marches, in particular by prohibiting the broadcasting of music or by prohibiting certain people from attending.
Sturgeon said she tasked Justice Secretary Keith Brown to assess the merits of the proposal.
But Gibson told the Belfast News Letter that a Scottish commission would be biased and counterproductive, and that the use of hate crimes legislation would be fairer.
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He said: “We think that would be a bad idea. He maintains the division and here he was rewarding the threat of violence.
“The parade as a whole is a cultural activity of the Protestant community, so any organization created to look at parades by extension is prejudiced against that community.
“Whereas hate crimes legislation applies to all intolerance and fanaticism, regardless of race, creed or gender. We believe that there are enough laws regarding anti-social and hate crimes.
“A parade commission only introduces another layer of unnecessary and unnecessary bureaucracy that encourages intolerance.”
Writing for The National, Dornan said: “Most of us will remember the annual battles of Garvaghy Road and other places in Northern Ireland, so why don’t we see this on our screens every year? Because, not without some initial pain of course, they set up a Parade Commission.
“I’m not saying it’s a quick fix; what I’m saying is it’s worth watching calmly. Plus, for the life of me, I can’t understand why anyone would fear him. Let’s be clear here, in a democracy, people have the right to assemble and freedom of speech.
“However, places of worship and other important places also have the right to be respected.”