Making progress on parading – can Northern Ireland learn from Derry-Londonderry?


As Northern Ireland moves towards what will hopefully be a peaceful 12th July, the manager of ‘the Derry Model’, Maeve McLoughlin – a former Sinn Fein MLA – reflects on how peaceful parading was negotiated, after years of conflict and tension in Derry-Londonderry.  “It was spurred on by a commitment to the city,” she says, “and by people who genuinely wanted to be in a better place.

“That was the feeling of the Apprentice Boys as well.  They love the city.  They want the city to be perceived and presented in a very positive light.  There is no doubt that the demographics, the largely republican/nationalist city, spurred on those conversations.  It was also that when you have rights, you also have responsibilities.”

The Derry Model is a conflict transformation peacebuilding project, which seeks to spread awareness of the city’s success in addressing its historic problems over parading – which used to lead to the city centre being virtually closed down during parades.  Progress was achieved through extensive negotiations, compromises and recognition of both rights and responsibilities.  Maeve explains the work of the Derry Model in the latest Forward Together podcast.

“It is not one thing,” says Maeve.  “We couldn’t say the Derry Model equals this set of circumstances or experience.  It’s a mixture.  I think it’s our demographics.  We had leadership.  We had people willing to take risks.  We have sets of experiences.  I wouldn’t be naive enough to say we can simply lift those experiences and tailor them into other areas.

“But we have templates.  We have a sense of people who were willing to take risks – that is a big important message for other communities.  So it is how we use those experiences to cascade that learning to other circumstances.  That is not to say it is all going to fit perfectly.  In terms of parading, the relationship in this city of the Apprentice Boys with the residents’ groups, and the relationship we have between the Bloody Sunday Museum and the Siege Museum is unique.  And the business sector played a very proactive role to reach an accommodation.”

Maeve says that republicans, nationalists and business leaders in Derry were willing to take risks to achieve agreement on parading, as were people in the loyal orders.  “When we look at the Maiden City Accord between the bands’ forum, potentially sanctioning or disciplining individual band members or entire bands.  That was a very significant message to the city, that people were taking this seriously.”  This meant the city could take control of problems relating, for example, to drunken “hangers-on”.

The Derry Model is also concerned with dealing with the past.  Maeve says that while the concept of ‘justice’ means different things for different people, learning the truth is central to how we should deal with the past.  She adds that apologies – such as that from David Cameron for Bloody Sunday – can help the families of some victims and can be important.

But Maeve warns that Northern Ireland cannot made lasting and genuine progress unless there is economic, social and environmental regeneration that addresses actual need.  “We won’t change the outcome unless we target that need,” she says.  “If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to have the same outcome.”

The latest podcast interview is available here. The podcasts are also available on iTunes and Spotify.


    • Holywell Trust receives support for the Forward Together Podcast through the Media Grant Scheme and Core Funding Programme of Community Relations Council and Good Relations Core Funding Programme of Derry City and Strabane District Council.

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