Apprentice Boys call for good behaviour at Shutting of the Gates
The Governor of the Apprentice Boys has called for people attending the Shutting of the Gates commemoration today to conduct themselves with decorum.
This is the organisation's first event, and the most significant in their calendar, since the Relief of Derry celebrations in August.
That event was criticised after members of the Clyde Valley Flute Band wore emblems declaring support for Soldier F, a former paratrooper facing trial for murder and attempted murder on Bloody Sunday in 1972.
The Apprentice Boys and the Bloody Sunday Trust have held several meetings since the row in an attempt to repair relationships and maintain agreements around parading that have existed for 20 years.
Significantly, the Larne-based Clyde Valley Flute Band is not among the 23 groups taking part in today's event.
Businessman Garvan O'Doherty and Derry city centre manger Jim Roddy, who played key roles in establishing good relationships between the groups in the city, led the most recent discussions.
The two men said in a joint statement their priority was the mending and maintenance of good community relations.
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"We were cognisant of the fact that relationships had been damaged following the August 10 Relief of Derry parade, when Soldier F emblems were displayed on the shoulders of members of a visiting band," they added.
"Our priority was to bring those relationships back to the point where mutual respect for all citizens of this wonderful city would be understood, accepted and upheld.
"We are extremely encouraged by the positive nature of all of the meetings we have hosted and the understanding that these parades would occur in a climate of respect for all traditions in the city, and would avoid behaviour which adds no cultural value or that detracts from the commemorative and historical nature of the parades."
Graeme Stenhouse, the Governor of the Apprentice Boys, echoed this call.
"The Shutting of the Gates commemoration is the single most important day in our calender because it is the anniversary of the closing of the gate by the 13 Apprentice Boys," Mr Stenhouse stressed.
"As always, we appeal to our members to come to the Maiden City to remember what it is we are commemorating and celebrating, and to conduct themselves with proper decorum.
"We expect 2,000 members of the Apprentice Boys to take part, along with 23 bands and thousands of spectators."