Loyal order organisations throughout Northern Ireland are to be asked to adopt a series of recommendations aimed at reducing tensions during loyalist parades.
The recommendations are contained in a document known as The Maiden City Accord, which was drafted following five months of confidential meetings involving the local branches in Derry of the Apprentice Boys, the Grand Orange Lodge, the Royal Black Institution and the Londonderry Bands Forum.
It's the first time that local loyal orders have signed up to a written set of rules on how they will parade.
Bands Forum member Derek Moore, who chaired the secret talks, said the accord was “born in Londonderry because unionists in this city are a tiny minority in a nationalist city, therefore a reduction in tensions in terms of parades was a necessity for us”.
He said he was confident the accord's recommendations would be accepted on a Northern Ireland-wide basis.
The accord highlights six issues, which are communications, timing of parades, health and safety, dignified parading, behaviour and briefings and reviews.
“There are no issues in this accord which should frighten any loyal order in Northern Ireland,”
Mr Moore said. “From the outset it was agreed by all the parties that the accord was a conscious effort to redress the balance of negativity that has been generated against a number of legitimate processions, commemorations or parades by politically-motivated groups who continually seek to find offence in every cultural aspect of the Protestant identity.”
One of the recommendations in the accord, under the heading ‘Behaviour’ states “parade participants must refrain at all times from any form of antagonism towards the general public, especially in areas where the people present may not be supporters of parading culture”.
Members of Sinn Fein and the PSNI were at the formal launch of the document in Derry yesterday.
PSNI assistant commander in Derry, Chief Inspector Tony O'Callaghan, said the accord contained a series of positive recommendations in terms of parades across Northern Ireland.
“Anything that helps to take us all forward in terms of achieving peaceful parades is to be welcomed,” he said. “We are delighted to support initiatives like this.
“From a policing point of view, excellent lines of communication are vital in terms of reducing tensions on all sides.
“The adopting across Northern Ireland of the recommendations in this accord will go a long way to achieving that common goal.”