Belfast Telegraph

Apprentice Boys continuing parade talks in the run-up to Lundy's Day celebrations

Gary Middleton
Gary Middleton
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

Efforts to restore an agreement that allowed 20 years of peaceful parading in Londonderry are ongoing ahead of the Apprentice Boys' next commemoration in the city in December.

The Apprentice Boys will hold their annual commemoration of the Shutting of the Gates, known as Lundy's Day, on the first Saturday in December. The event attracts thousands of marchers, bands and spectators.

It will be the first unionist parade in the city since the Apprentice Boys march in August, when a band from Larne wore emblems supporting a soldier facing Bloody Sunday murder charges, sparking anger among the wider nationalist community.

This, along with anger from within the unionist community over the action taken by police against the band, led to a breakdown in the parading agreement, known as the Maiden City Accord.

A series of meetings between the Apprentice Boys, the Bloody Sunday Trust and nationalist politicians - along with an independent inquiry into the police operation - have left all parties optimistic that the December parade will pass off peacefully.

Meetings which were described as "cordial and constructive" by the chairman of the Bloody Sunday Trust, Tony Doherty, have already taken place and others are planned in the run-up to Lundy's Day.

Governor of the Apprentice Boys, Graham Stenhouse, said: "There has been 20 years of discussions to get us to where we were and I am sure with calm head and good intention we will get there again.

"We are hopeful that by December, the good relations that existed will have been restored."

"I do welcome the admission by the chief constable that the actions by the police on August 10 were regrettable."

Policing Board member and Apprentice Boy, Gary Middleton, MLA quizzed the chief constable about the policing operation at August's parade during this week's meeting.

Mr Middleton said: "There is still a significant level of anger within the community at the policing operation during the Apprentice Boys Parade.

"As public representatives we are now left to deal with the consequences of what happened. Confidence in the PSNI has been damaged as a result, and it is important that this is restored.

"Important lessons must be understood by the police. I welcome that the chief constable has committed to a review of the practices from that day by introducing an independent review of the policing operation."

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