The more things change, the more things stay the same. Perhaps this is the cliche that should encompass the last few days in Derry.
In August 1969, the annual Apprentice Boys march in Derry became the starting point for the Battle of the Bogside and this city’s inexorable descent into mayhem. The fulcrum of this almost annual chaos came in the mid 90s when on the back of the Drumcree debacle Derry was enveloped in flames. The eventual outcome was a process of dialogue, whilst initially tortuous, that led to agreemement between loyalist and nationalists alike. When the loyal orders last week published the Maiden City Accord they outlined what was expected of marchers, bands people and spectators alike in terms of their behaviour. People listened and during last weekend’s parade, the largest in the North each year, not a single serious incident was recorded. Could everyone in Belfast, please take note!
Jump back a few years before 1969 to 1964 and the university campaign which saw the newly founded University of Ulster located in Coleraine to the amazement and disgust of the majority of people in this city. Jump forward then to last Friday and the announcement by Minister Stephen Farry that a proposed expansion for Magee College “was off the table.”
Mr Farry has denied singling the city out for adverse attention in the light of the failure to implement Welfare Reforms at Stormont. Whatever the reasoning behind this decision it is hard to swallow given the millions given to the University of Ulster for a new Belfast campus. As in the 1960s, when Unionist Mayor, Albert Anderson led a calvalcade of protestors from all traditions and political beliefs to the steps of Stormont it is time to see this unity of opinion brought to the fore again for the good of all in this city.