Voluntary parade guidance adopted

Jim Brownlee, Governor of the General Committee of the Apprentice Boys of Derry
Jim Brownlee, Governor of the General Committee of the Apprentice Boys of Derry

Organisers of loyal order parade in Londonderry should contact all places of worship along the route to ensure that there is no disruption to religious services, under the terms of new voluntary parading rules.

The stipulation is contained in ‘The Maiden City Accord’ which was launched in Londonderry yesterday and has the support of the Apprentice Boys of Derry, Orange Order, Royal Black Preceptory and Londonderry Bands Forum.

Initially, only the Apprentice Boys will adopt the guidelines in full.

In a proactive move to head off criticism of loyal order parades, the document seeks to set out formally what the loyal orders say are practices long followed by many of their members across the Province.

The document states that a phone number should be given to a representative of each place of worship along a parade route so they can be contacted in case there are “unscheduled religious circumstances”.

The detailed document sets out guidance on everything from how marshalls should communicate to the requirement for adequate insurance for those “mace throwing” or involved in “complicated drumstick routines”.

It states that parade organisers “are responsible for the dignity and discipline of all parading participants”.

That, it said, involved “restriction [on] participation of individuals clearly showing an influence from the intake of alcohol” and the need to ensure that no illegal flags or emblems are displayed.

It also said that “loyal order officers and band committee members are to actively discourage the consumption of alcohol or any use of illegal substances by parade participants prior to and during parades”.

Earlier this year a statutory code of conduct was one of the sticking points during the Haass talks, with unionists firmly rejecting the proposal.

Jim Brownlee, governor of the Apprentice Boys, stressed that the document was not a “code of conduct”, but rather an “agreement” about how parades will be conducted.

He told the News Letter that the “local accord” was “a common sense document addressing issues whereby Protestant culture in particular has been demonised”.

He added: “It will make people aware of what’s expected of them in terms of parades.

“And it will also give them a sense of pride that this culture is something to be proud of; not something to be hidden or limited in terms of a public procession. It’s reflective of history and tradition and in many ways it’s a document which is common sense in terms of what’s expected of you at parades.”

Mr Brownlee said he hoped that it would lead to “ironing out difficulties and also promoting our culture in a proper way”.

The Apprentice Boys’ governor said that it was for the loyal orders in other parts of the Province to decide whether they would adopt a similar document.

There has been much commentary in recent years about the way in which Londonderry’s parades are now almost trouble-free, following dialogue undertaken at the instigation of the local business community.

When asked why he believed the north west was now being touted as an example to other parts of the Province, Mr Brownless said: “All we’ve tried to do is reach out to the community and explain what our culture is about .

“We’re non political, pro Christian, historical and commemorative in our ethos.”

He added: “The more doors you open, the more people walk through.”

Derek Moore, coordinator of the Londonderry Bands Forum, said that describing the document as a ‘code of conduct’ could have given the impression that there was a problem with the conducts of those on parade.

“It’s a management plan for managing parades in order to get everyone on the same hymnsheet,” he said, adding that it was “as much an education process for people in the parades as for those outside”.

He added: “If everyone takes it on board there [will be] no issue with conduct.”