Garvan O'Doherty and Jim Roddy praise 'positive nature' of talks ahead of Apprentice Boys of Derry's 'Lundy's Day' demonstrations
Intermediaries involved in behind-the-scenes talks between Derry nationalists and the Apprentice Boys have praised all parties for the spirit of engagement displayed in the build up to tomorrow's 'Lundy's Day' demonstration in Derry on Saturday.
Derry businessman Garvan O’Doherty and City Centre Initiative manager Jim Roddy helped facilitate a series of meetings around parading in the aftermath of the decision by the Larne based Clyde Valley Flute Band to wear uniforms bearing Parachute Regiment insignia at the annual Relief of Derry celebrations in August.
The controversial move caused hurt and upset among members of the nationalist community and members of the Bloody Sunday families in particular and dominated coverage of this year's ‘Relief of Derry’ or 'Derry Day' commemorations which is the largest stand-along loyalist parade in the world.
Since then members of the Bloody Sunday families and the Apprentice Boys of Derry have been engaged in under-the-radar dialogue aimed at ensuring tomorrow's 'Shutting of the Gates' celebrations in the city are conducted respectfully.
In a joint statement Messrs. O'Doherty and Roddy said: "We were cognisant of the fact that relationships had been damaged following the August 10 'Relief of Derry' parade when 'Soldier F' emblems were displayed on one of the visiting bands shoulders.
"Our priority was to bring those relationships back to the point where mutual respect for all citizens of this wonderful city would be understood accepted and upheld.
"This would then reinforce all of the good work that has been done in previous years which built an understanding of the 'Relief of Derry' and 'Shutting of the Gates' parades, in particular."
On Saturday up to 2,500 Apprentice Boys and band members are expected to participate in the 331st anniversary of the 'Shutting of the Gates' when 13 Derry apprentices closed the gates of the city in an act of rebellion against the reigning and self-styled King James II of England, Scotland, France and Ireland.
The 'shutting of the gates' is considered to have been one of the key events in the run up to the famous Siege of Derry.
Ahead of tomorrow's parade which culminates with the burning of an effigy of Robert Lundy, a Governor of Derry during the Siege, Messrs. O'Doherty and Roddy said they anticipated a respectful demonstration.
"We are extremely encouraged by the positive nature of all of the meetings that we have hosted and the understanding that these parades would occur in, a climate of respect for all traditions in the City and would avoid behaviour which adds no cultural value or that detracts from the commemorative and historical nature of the parades.
"We would like to thank and commend all who have contributed to these discussions and encourage all to respect each other and allow us all to focus on the vital social and economic needs of people of the City by concentrating on creating a shared future that provides for and respects all of our cultures," they stated.