US diplomat Richard Haass visited Derry this week as part of the process of talks to resolve some of the most controversial and divisive issues in the North.
The former special envoy to the North met with a number of groups in the city to collect submissions for his lengthy round of talks designed to reach agreement on flags, parading and dealing with the past.
During his visit the senior diplomat met with business leaders in the city, as well as victims’ groups.
On a tour of the Peace Bridge and Ebrington Square Dr Haass was harangued by local man Danny Bradley, whose brother, an unarmed IRA volunteer, was shot dead by the British army during Operation Motorman in 1972.
He also had an impromptu meeting with Kate and Linda Nash, sisters of Bloody Sunday victim, William Nash, at Ebrington Square.
As well as meeting relatives of people killed in the conflict, Dr Haass and his team also met with the local Chamber of Commerce to discuss how last year’s flag protests and parading issues impacted on traders.
Philip Gilliland, president of the Chamber of Commerce, said it is important that the concerns of traders form part of the Haass talks process.
The business chief said he hoped the experience of parading and protests in the city can help deal with problems in other parts of the North.
“Derry, as everybody knows, is a good way down the journey that is Northern Ireland, probably further down the journey than most places. It’s got a very good story to tell. Obviously there still remain issues, but I think we’ve come a lot further than most places.
“I think the reason for that is because in the last 15 or so years, in Derry, there’s been a sort of a sense that when anything happens, it’s up to us, the entire community.
“We feel a sense of ownership over the city, we feel a sense of ownership over sorting out the challenges and getting them right. I think that’s one of the lessons that maybe other places could learn from,” he said.
Dr Haass has been chairing the talks process since September.
He has met with a range of interested groups including political parites, churches, trade unions, victims’ groups, and the community and voluntary sector.
He has set a deadline of the end of the year for the process and has said he is confident that timeline will be met.
He will then compile his report and deliver it to the First and Deputy First Ministers who will then study its recommendations.