Northern Ireland

Guidelines drawn up for Londonderry loyal orders parades

The Apprentice Boys of Derry are among the loyal orders which are backing the Maiden City Accord
Image caption The Apprentice Boys of Derry are among the loyal orders that are backing the Maiden City Accord

Loyal orders have issued a consultative document setting out guidelines for lodge members and bandsman taking part in parades in Londonderry.

The Maiden City Accord has the support of the Apprentice Boys of Derry, the Orange Order and the Black Preceptory.

The accord includes a recommendation that places of worship on march routes should be contacted to avoid disruption of services.

It says organisers are responsible for the discipline of participants.

The document asks loyal order officers and band committees to actively discourage the consumption of alcohol or use of illegal substances by parade participants before or during parades.

It also suggests that a telephone number be supplied to a representative of each place of worship on parade routes.

This is meant to enable parade organisers to be contacted in case of "unscheduled religious circumstances".

Forum

The accord said parade organisers were responsible for the dignity and discipline of all parading participants and should ensure that no illegal flags or emblems were displayed.

The governor of the Apprentice Boys, Jim Brownlee, said the document came about because a project called the Londonderry bands forum wanted to liaise with the loyal orders locally.

The forum was set up to break down young people's preconceptions of marching bands and parading in Northern Ireland.

Mr Brownlee said the Apprentice Boys of Derry, the Orange Order, the Royal Black sent representatives to a meeting with the forum.

"We have a document. What we are looking for now is a response from the wider community. It's a commonsense document which I'm sure everyone can buy into," he said.

"I would challenge anyone to say this is not a good thing. I think it is a good thing for parading in the city.

"There was a significant input from the marshalling teams. These are the people who have experience in marshalling parades.

"They have experience of having addressed specific issues that have occurred."

'Challenges'

Mr Brownlee said the document was basically about how to promote Protestant culture, parading culture, how individuals should behave, how they can help to promote Protestant culture in the public domain through parading and other events.

"We only have to look at our recent past to realise there are challenges out there," he said.

"There are a lot of misconceptions out there about Protestant culture and indeed, parading culture. That's the challenge."

Mr Brownlee said that with 15,000 people taking part in a parade, there would be elements that required guidance in relation to behaviour and to discipline.

"But it's not a major issue at the moment. Believe it or not, the major issue this year is how to manage a water station at the Waterside."

He said the document was meant as a "tester".

"We throw it out there, people will make comment upon it and we will take those issues on board. It's a first edition."

He said feedback would be considered and if necessary, the document would be amended.

In the past, parades have often been associated with protests and rioting.

However, in recent years relations between communities and the loyal orders in Londonderry have been held up as a model for other areas.

In a statement, the Orange Order said: "The Maiden City Accord is a new initiative and we hope it works successfully for the loyal orders in Londonderry.

"We note the written protocol is specifically tailored to parades in the city, and in this regard is not necessarily a blueprint for parades in other areas of Northern Ireland.

"However, Grand Lodge will study carefully the effects of the accord when it is fully implemented and if there are lessons for the institution as a result, then we will take them on board."

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly welcomed the document's publication, calling for it to be adopted in other areas of Northern Ireland.

"In Derry, where this accord comes from, dialogue between the Apprentice Boys and residents has transformed the parading situation," he said.

'Progressive'

The Northern Ireland Office also gave a positive response.

"It is yet another important and progressive initiative from those involved in parading in the city," the department said in its Twitter feed.

Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson said: "The Maiden City Accord is a positive step forward. Parading in Londonderry has seen many constructive developments in recent years and a lot can certainly be learnt from what has been achieved to date.

"I particularly welcome the proposal to make parade organisers responsible for the dignity and discipline of all participants."

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