In an earlier post I mentioned the presence of self-appointed and so-called 'human rights observers' on the Crumlin Road at Ardoyne during the Apprentice Boys of Derry parade and the protests by CARA and GARC on Saturday.
At that point I did not know who they were and indeed when one of them was asked to identify himself and his organisation he refused. I can now understand why.
These individuals were from the Irish Law & Democracy Committee. This organisation has its own blog and that gives us a good insight into who they are and what they are about. The first post on the blog is dated 20 March 2011 and it says something about the formation of the ILDC:
The Irish Law & Democracy Committee was established by a group of Queen's University law students in September 2010 who came together as a result of a shared concern over the current failures in fundamental legal rights and freedoms in Ireland and beyond.
Quite a number of the early posts relate to the Justice for Michael McKevitt Campaign - McKevitt is the former leader of the Real IRA and is serving a 20-year sentence in Portlaoise for directing terrorism. Other posts relate to dissident republican prisoner Brendan Lillis, PSNI stops and searches, Brendan Conway, another dissident republican prisoner, British Intelligence, the Republican Network for Unity, Pat Finucane, Magheraberry prison, Colin Duffy, Brian Shivers, Marian Price, and Brendan McConville and John Paul Wotton, who were convicted of the murder of PSNI officer Stephen Carroll. It is therefore fairly clear that this committee has a special interest in issues relating to dissident republicanism.
The ILDC also has an interest in loyal order parades and in a post of 23 May 2012 it announced 'a new initiative for the monitoring of contentious parades':
The Irish Law & Democracy Committee has produced an initiative for the Monitoring of Contentious Parades through the use of its Independent Human Rights Observers. Independent Human Rights Observers were common place in contentious parades across the North of Ireland throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s, however in recent years these Observers are no longer visible at such parades. It is the opinion of the ILDC that the need for Independent human rights observers at such contentious parades is as necessary now as it was then. As a result the Irish Law & Democracy Committee has initiated this process for the Monitoring of Contentious Parades. The ILDC will only be present at those contentious parades where the community have felt the need for Observers and as a result invites the ILDC Observers to monitor and observe the parade. Such a process will encompass the monitoring and observing of those parades, in regard to the implementation of policing measures, the conduct of the police officers the conduct of those participants in the parade and those following the parade and the impact of the parade on the community it takes place in. The monitoring process will be carried out in respect of the relevant international human rights standards in all aspects of the parade and policing operation. Likewise, the parade and the policing measures will be gauged against other domestic statutory measures in respect of the particular parade.
There is further amplification in a related comment:
Rather than negotiate or involve itself in any type of resolution the ILDC parade initiative has merely been put in place to protect the human rights of those persons who are subject to human rights abuses as a result of these parades, through state violence or otherwise. It also will assist any community groups who wish to oppose such parades with any legal assistance they require in regard to such a process. To involve itself in any political settlement of parades would breach our constitution as we are solely a human rights campaign group and do not involve ourselves in any political aspect of the actions.
The ILDC seems to have a special interest in North Belfast and that includes a propagandist post on Girdwood and housing. However the main North Belfast focus is in relation to parades.
They start with a 30 June post on the Whiterock parade and state that the ILDC Independent Human Rights Observers were there on the day. According to their post they 'appear to have witnessed the fact that a number of aspects of the Parades Commission determination appear to have been breached' and they promise a full report to follow.
The next post on 10 July is a press release stating that they will be monitoring the 'Ard Eoin/Ardoyne parade on the 12th July 2012 on both the outward and the return legs of the parade.' The observers would actually be there from 11 to 13 July and people were invited to contact them.
On 14 July they posted about the detention of Martin Corey, who was convicted in 1973 of murdering two policemen, and it took until 18 July to post about the Twelfth. They covered a number of issues but they omitted to mention the human rights of the car owner whose car was burned by republican rioters or the human rights of the policemen who were the targets of a dissident republican gunman.
There is also a post on 21 July about the arrest of GARC steward Alan Lundy who has been charged in relation 'allegations of disorder'.
A week later there is a post responding to an article by Sean Murray of Sinn Fein in the Belfast Telegraph. The focus again is on North Belfast and the ILDC response is interesting and merits further consideration. However they are clearly at odds with Sinn Fein and seem to be aligned with the stance of GARC and the dissidents.
There follows another post about dissident republican Marian Price but the most recent post is entitled 'Nelson McCausland launches attack on ILDC'. The ILDC accuse me of 'making outlandish claims against the ILDC' on this blog. In fact I hadn't mentioned the ILDC because at the time the post was written I hadn't heard of them. I first heard of this group late yesterday when someone kindly sent me an e-mail and directed me to an article about them on the internet. I will respond to them in a second post but at least we now know who the 'independent human rights observers' are ... and that makes it much easier to know how to respond to an organisation that seems to be 'GARC with brains'.