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Parades mediator hailed for 25 years of bridge-building


Michael Doherty photo.JPG

Michael Doherty photo.JPG

Michael Doherty photo.JPG

A key figure in the resolution of parading disputes in Londonderry has won a prestigious award for more than 25 years' work in community relations.

A pioneer of anti-racism and anti-sectarianism projects in Ballymena has also been honoured.

Michael Doherty, who was involved in defusing tensions surrounding loyalist order parades in Derry, was announced as joint recipient of the Community Relations Award for Exceptional Achievement.

The resolution is seen as a blueprint for mediation across Northern Ireland.

Jackie Patton, good relations officer at Ballymena Borough Council, was similarly honoured at an event in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings as part of a Community Relations Week.

Ms Patton has been the community relations officer at Ballymena Borough Council since 1991 and has pioneered important work in the areas of race relations and anti-sectarianism.

She was central to the setting up of the council's Ethnic Minorities Project and Community Outreach Programme.

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Mr Doherty, who is currently Director of the Peace and Reconciliation Group (PRG), was a key member of the organisation that helped resolve the parading dispute between residents in in Derry/Londonderry and the Apprentice Boys through a shuttle mediation process.

He has been involved in youth and community work since he was 18 and has been involved in community relations in a wide range of projects and organisations including the Northern Ireland Association of Youth Clubs, known later as Youth Action.

Ms Patton was nominated for the prestigious Community Relations Council (CRC) award by PJ McAvoy, mayor of Ballymena, whilst Mr Doherty was nominated by the Good Relations Officer at Derry City Council and by Michael's staff colleagues at the Peace and Reconciliation Group.

CRC chief executive Jacqueline Irwin said they were both worthy winners: "Jackie's positive influence on community relations in Ballymena is there for all to see, covering race relations and anti-sectarianism, from a policy perspective and the practical implementation of initiatives to bridge division and create shared space.

"Michael has been a constant influence in the peace process in the north west, from his role in parading disputes to training and his involvement in public debate.

"Often the work of community relations practitioners goes unsung, and we are delighted to shine a light on Jackie's and Michael's achievements."

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