A reconciliation project built on the ‘Derry Model’ of cross-community dialogue has already involved engagement with loyalists, ex-security forces and ‘Troubles’ victims.
Over its four year lifetime the Bloody Sunday Trust, EU PEACE IV funded programme, will attract 600 people to learn from Derry’s inclusive culture.
This week, project manager, Maeve McLaughlin and BST Chair, Tony Doherty, provided members of Derry City & Strabane District Council’s Business and Culture Committee with a progress update.
Ms. McLaughlin said it was important a “warts and all” approach was taken.
“We’re not saying that everything we did in this city was the right thing at the right time,” she acknowledged.
But Derry’s tradition of power-sharing in local government from 1973; the accommodation around parades at the end of the 1990s; the Bloody Sunday campaign and the successful co-operation of the Museum of Free Derry and the Siege Museum, are things to be shared, she stressed.
Overarching this was the culture of dialogue that enabled all of these things to happen, she added.
Since the project launched a diverse range of groups have taken part - the Dublin/Monaghan bombings, McGurk’s Bar and Ballymurphy families; loyalists from the the Ballymac Centre and Charter NI in East Belfast; and, last weekend, 14 women from the Shankill and North Down, were in the city to engage with the October 5 commemorations.
Engagement has also taken place with at least one victim of the Claudy bombing, as well as with ex-RUC and ex-British army officers, she said.
Unionist committee members, however, raised concerns about whether the project was balanced.
DUP Alderman David Ramsey said there had been no reference to the ‘Exodus’ of Protestants from the cityside during the 1970s or to IRA atrocities. He said he feared there was an “anti-British narrative” being presented.
UUP Alderman Mary Hamilton, meanwhile, said that as a victim of the Claudy bombing she was unaware of any engagement with the families.
Sinn Féin’s Paul Fleming said his party was supportive of the initiative. He said there was a history of engagement from within republicanism and nationalism in Derry dating back to Gregory Campbell’s appearance at the Gasyard Féile 25 years ago.
SDLP Councillor Martin Reilly said dialogue was key and it was important people’s concerns and fears if they had any were aired.
“People coming to our city need to hear as broad a range of views as possible,” he said.