Northern Ireland

Changes are made to parades plan

Orangemen parade in Portadown
Image caption The legislation is mainly aimed at problems around loyalist parades

Plans to include open-air and other public meetings in new parades legislation have been dropped after a storm of protest.

The first and deputy first ministers said they had taken the move after "careful consideration" of responses received to the draft Public Assemblies Parades and Protests bill.

Some groups were angry that under the new legislation all gatherings involving 50 or more in a public space would have required giving the authorities 37 days prior notice.

Trade unions said this would have seriously undermined the legitimate right to protest.

The police also expressed concern that the law was too widely drawn and would have covered, for example, events like a back-garden barbecue involving 50 people.

Many of the responses received during the the consultation period called for the 37 day clause to be removed from the legislation.

Other consultation responses said any new law should concentrate solely on contentious parades and counter demonstrations rather than including peaceful demonstrations or assemblies.

The first minister and deputy first minister said they accept this point and the bill will now be "limited in application to parades and protest meetings."

First Minister Peter Robinson said it was never the intention that open air and public meetings would be affected by the legislation and the "amendment would absolutely clarify this".

He also said the ministers intend to address any confusion about the references to human rights in the legislation to make clear everything would be based on the European Convention of Human Rights.

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