‘Walls have divided city and its people’

Dr David Latimer, First Derry Presbyterian Church, conducts a redediication ceremony on Derry's Walls. Photo: Stephen Laitmer
Dr David Latimer, First Derry Presbyterian Church, conducts a redediication ceremony on Derry's Walls. Photo: Stephen Laitmer
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A local cleric is encouraging people across Derry to “become the architects of a truly new order of co-operation.”

Rev. David Latimer - who has spearheaded a series of high-profile cross-community initiatives in the city - said nothing should be allowed to separate “one tradition from the other across this great city and throughout this country”.

The First Derry Presbyterian minister was speaking at a service of celebration at St Columb’s Cathedral to mark the 400th anniversary of the planning of the city’s historic walls.

He told the interdenominational event: “From earliest times, walls have purposefully been wrapped around cities to keep people safe and provide protection.

“Here, in our own city, walls were introduced for reasons of defence during the period 1614-1619 and, despite the sieges of the 1640s and the Great Siege of 1689 with their angry roar of cannons, were never once breached, which allowed for the name ‘Maiden City’ to be introduced to this place we all call home.

“While walls and, for that matter, rivers have effectively contributed to defending cities and protecting people, they can, as we know only too well in this part of the world, serve successfully to divide a city and keep its people apart.”

Dr. Latimer went on to say that, moving, as we appear to be, out of the “dark valley or despair and away from the midnight of desperation, ever onwards towards the mountain of hope and the daybreak of joy, should induce us to reflect on the experiences of those who have struggled with divisions that have historically injured relationships on this island.”

The minister quoted what he called “inspirational” remarks by Thomas Davis - a 19th century revolutionary Irish Protestant who preached unity between Catholics and Protestants. He went on to say he was persuaded “that nothing in all creation should be allowed to separate one tradition from the other across this great city and throughout this county - neither walls of stone or walls of heart and mind”.

He added: “All who aspire to build new relationships can become co-authors of a new story and the story we tell today will have a bearing on the story we tell tomorrow.

“Therefore, if we are prepared to leave aside tired generalisations, speak always to the good in people and earnestly seek to get to know one another, we can, with God’s divine help, become the architects of a truly new order of co-operation!”

Sunday’s service - hosted by Dean William Morton - was also attended by Rev. Michael Canny, PP, Waterside.