The main positive of 2013 in Northern Ireland was Londonderry’s establishment of a model for how a post-conflict society might look like in its happiest form.
That’s according to Dr Paul Nolan, who also said that the participation of the Apprentice Boys in the Fleadh and the applause afforded the PSNI band as it played in Guildhall Square would have seemed unimaginable 10 or 15 years ago.
The author of the Community Relations Council’s (CRC) third Peace Monitoring Report made the claims during a briefing of the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister at Stormont recently.
“The main positive to emerge from last year was how the City of Culture in Derry/Londonderry managed almost to model what a post-conflict society might look like in its happiest form,” he said.
“We had some remarkable exchanges, such as the Apprentice Boys playing their tunes in the Fleadh Cheoil or the PSNI band being applauded as it came into Guildhall Square.
“That would have seemed unimaginable 10 or 15 years ago. Although, overall, the year was fairly negative, there are significant positive points that we need to hold onto,” he added.
The CRC Chief Executive, Jacqueline Irwin, told the Committee Londonderry’s success didn’t come out of the blue.
“Last year in Derry/Londonderry was a very good example of how we can do that and everybody gets a win out of it.
“Now, that took work; you know as well as I do that it did not fall out of a clear blue sky.
“But nevertheless there were very important ingredients to it which I think we can apply to the broader context.” she said.
East Londonderry MLA George Robinson referred to the collaboration between Limavady High and St Mary’s in Limavady as another example of good community relations.
He said: “The Protestant and Catholic schools in Limavady sit side by side and now work closely together.
“They are building a bridge between the two schools, and there is greater working between one school and the other.
“We were over there two or three weeks ago, and an incredible amount of collaborative work is going on.
“The principals practically live in each other’s school at the moment. It is so good to see that working relationship between the two religions being fostered at such a young age.”
CRC Chair Peter Osborne said: “That is very encouraging, George. I am aware of that, as, I am sure, are Jacqueline and Paul.
“The more that happens, the greater the understanding is, without any risk to anybody, of the diverse nature of the community there.”
He added: “For the record and given that you mentioned the work in Limavady, I congratulate Limavady Borough Council on its work.
“The council and the officer do much positive work - a lot of it quietly - that makes a significant impact. The impact is much greater than you would imagine from the budget that they have.”