BELFAST, Northern Ireland, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- The Protestant Orange Order may stop giving the Parades Commission in Northern Ireland advance notice of its marches, its grand chaplain says.
The Rev. Mervyn Gibson said Friday marches protesting the decision to stop flying the British flag year-round at Belfast City Hall were allowed to proceed even though they were held without notifying police or the commission, the Belfast Telegraph reported.
Under the law, the commission only has jurisdiction over a march if the organizers have registered with it.
While parade permits are legally required, there appears to be no penalty for failing to secure one, Gibson said.
"Simply because you fill in the form, you could get charged with an offense," Gibson said. "You don't fill in the form, you aren't committing an offense other than you broke some other law."
The Orange Order, a large Protestant fraternal organization, is known for its parades, especially those held in "marching season," the period around July 12, to commemorate the Battle of the Boyne, when the Catholic King James II of England suffered his final defeat.
Basil McCrea, an independent unionist, and the Alliance Party, which is trying to bridge the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland, criticized Gibson's statement.
"It is not only ill-advised, it's bordering on the irresponsible," McCrea said.