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The Parades Commission is a quasi-judicial non-departmental public body responsible for placing restrictions on or banning outright any parades in Northern Ireland it deems contentious or offensive. It is composed of seven members, all of whom are appointed by the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Restrictions include a prohibition on music being played, banning a parade from certain areas, determining the route of a parade, and banning bands it deems provocative. Its rulings are usually enforced by either parade stewards or the Police Service of Northern Ireland, though there are disputes as to whether this is done to the letter of the law in certain areas. The Commission acts under the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998.
Parade organisers and participants are liable to arrest and prosecution for breaching any of the Commission's rulings, although no-one has been charged since the Commission was established in 1998. A section 6(7) offence has a maximum punishment of 6 months imprisonment or level 5 on the standard scale.
The Commission was set up after the large-scale civil strife that followed the Drumcree conflict over an Orange Order parade in Portadown. It has come under strong criticism from the Order. The Grand Lodge of the Order has a policy of non-engagement with the Commission, although some private and district lodges, particularly those with contentious parades, have agreed to talk to it.
The Commissioners are: