Maiden City Accord backed - even by Sinn Fein

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The new Maiden City Accord for the loyal orders in Londonderry should be rolled out across Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein and the Alliance Party have both said.

As revealed in yesterday’s News Letter, the document, drawn up by the loyal orders and bands in Londonderry, outlines new guidelines for loyal orders in Londonderry which promotes respect and dignified parading.

The Orange Order said it hoped the new initiative ‘works successfully’. However the Order remained cautious on the potential to expand the protocol elsewhere.

In a statement, the Order said: “We note the written protocol is specifically tailored to parades in the city, and in this regard is not necessarily a blueprint for parades in other areas of Northern Ireland.

“However, Grand Lodge will study carefully the effects of the accord when it is fully implemented and if there are lessons for the institution as a result, then we will take them on board.”

The document includes a recommendation that places of worship on march routes should be contacted to avoid disruption of services. It says organisers are responsible for the discipline of participants.

The document asks loyal order officers and band committees to actively discourage the consumption of alcohol or use of illegal substances by parade participants before or during parades.

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly welcomed that the protocol outlined the responsibilities of parade organisers: The requirement to abide by lawful decisions regarding flags and emblems is also welcome. While these and other elements of the accord are to be welcomed, it does require some development.

“Local dialogue is key to resolving the remaining issues around contentious parades and that needs to include dialogue with nationalist and republican residents.

“In Derry, where this accord comes from, dialogue between the Apprentice Boys and residents has transformed the parading situation,” said the Sinn Fein MLA.

“This accord now needs to be endorsed and adopted by other areas across the North.”

Meanwhile Alliance Chief Whip Stewart Dickson MLA described the initiative as a positive step forward.

He said: “Parading in Londonderry has seen many constructive developments in recent years and a lot can certainly be learnt from what has been achieved to date.

“I particularly welcome the proposal to make parade organisers responsible for the dignity and discipline of all participants.

“This could act as a model for parading throughout Northern Ireland. I hope that the Orange Order will look to implement it elsewhere.”