'It was good to talk'

THE DUP's William Hay has defended holding talks with nationalists in Londonderry over the parading issue in the mid-1990's, when major civil unrest caused millions of pounds worth of damage to the city centre.

As the veteran politician steps down from Derry City Council, a body which he was frst elected to in 1981, he has

reinforced his view that to refuse to negotiate with the Bogside Residents Group and business leaders in the city centre would have resulted in loyal order parades ever again taking place on the West Bank.

He also told the Sentinel that had that happened, Londonderry would have become a truly divided city forever.

In a wide ranging interview with this paper, representing the culmination of a thirty year period in local government, Mr Hay candidly admits that he encountered criticism from within his own community for trying to strike a deal over parading.

Vindication of the 1990's stance on loyal order walks has perhaps come from the fact that accommodation between the

organisations and nationalists in the city is often now heralded as the model for resolving other contentious parades across Northern Ireland.

William Hay said: "To have done nothing in that era would have resulted in no further parades taking place on the West Bank. I am still convinced of that.

"There were long hours spent talking in those years, they were very diffcult negotiations. I almost contemplated failure at one point.

"But, all those who took risks in that time need to be congratulated.

"They were crazy times. At Drumcree and across Northern Ireland there was severe unrest, but in this city we were going to meetings to ensure we could celebrate our culture in a way that would not offend anyone."

The Assembly's Speaker will hand over his council seat next month, and in today's paper recalls his political journey from party worker to elected representative."