Historic parades protocol unveiled in Derry

Apprentice Boys of Derry
Apprentice Boys of Derry

A historic written protocol that will govern parades in Derry has been unveiled by ‘loyal orders’ and bands.

‘Maiden City Accord’ is a written document that has been created “to outline and advise organisations on appropriate conduct during parades within the city”.

The idea of developing the ‘Maiden City Accord’ first arose during the monthly meeting of the Londonderry Bands Forum in December 2013. Various members of the local loyal orders were invited to the meeting to discuss various aspects in relation to events in the city and after some frank exchanges of views it was decided that it might be appropriate to produce a definitive form of protocol for parading and events. It was suggested that the coordinator of the bands forum, Derek Moore should explore some ideas and create a joint group to look at the options.

After an initial meeting to collate ideas from each group the document was then developed over a period of five months by senior representative members of the Apprentice Boys, City Grand Orange Lodge, Royal Black Preceptory, Londonderry Bands Forum and the loyal orders safety marshals.

While copies of the ‘Maiden City Accord’ are now being distributed, the guidelines within will not take effect before Saturday’s Relief of Derry parade but are expected to be locally implemented from December onwards.

The agreement outlines six key issues: Communication; Timing of Parades/ Events; Health and Safety; Dignified Parading; Behaviour; Briefing and Reviews.

The accord sets out to address several contentious issues relating to parading such as showing appropriate restraint when faced with antagonism and dignified behaviour when passing specific areas such as war memorials or places of worship. However the main bulk of the document is based on a common sense approach to parades and a special focus on health and safety and insurance related details.

In addition to detailing appropriate behaviour the accord also seeks to clearly identify a member of each group who is directly responsible for dealing with all communications to and from the group during the event.

The accord is primarily a local document that will be initially adopted by the Apprentice Boys of Derry for use at all their parades and public events, although the organisers are keen to stress that it will be made publically available for anyone who wishes to use elements from it or to develop their own version using the ‘Maiden City Accord’ as a blueprint.

Derek Moore explains that the accord is a starting point for greater things to come within the parading community: “Every band and club that appears in Londonderry to parade will receive a copy of the ‘Maiden City Accord’. We predict that it will take a year or two to get into full effect as it is a re-education programme for everyone involved so it will take a while for it all to come into place but it is a starting point for us to build and develop from and is constantly open for adaptation and review.”

Derek explains that aside from the practical aspects of creating an accord the document was inspired by the desire to return parading to its traditional form as a commemorative event within the protestant community.

He said: “We hope that it changes negative attitudes within the culture of parading and allows us to get back to the stage that we were at before the Troubles, when parades were focused on commemoration and remembrance, and to take it away from the primarily political aspect that has been ongoing for the last 20 or 30 years.”

The accord is largely a set of unspoken rules that the majority of participants currently follow, although organisers feel that creating a written document will not only help educate new members of each organisation but will increase communication between those who have been parading for years.

Both the PSNI and the City Centre Management team have been informed about the creation of the accord and its content and have provided positive feedback.