Do Protestants no longer matter in Londonderry?
HAS Londonderry's nationalist sense of identity now reached a point where the rights and heritage of Protestants have been obliterated from the consciousness of the majority community?
That is the question being asked by Protestant leaders in the city, after a number of incidents and after more republican violence led to more calls for Apprentice Boys to change how they celebrate their culture.
In his address at St Columb's Cathedral on Saturday, Dean William Morton voiced his concerns to worshippers that Protestants' heritage was being overlooked, adding: "Such is the strongly nationalist outlook in the city, anything that relates to Protestantism doesn't seem to make it on to their radar screens."
Later in his homily, he said: "All through the entire and long history of the Apprentice Boys of Derry, there have been those who have taken a stand.
"That is what we need to do in our day. Protestants, their culture, their history, their heritage, have rights - rights not to be discriminated against, rights to be regarded as contributing to many centuries of history in this ancient city, and rights to be regarded as a vital and necessary part of civic life."
The Apprentice Boys have been hailed for leading the way in Northern Ireland by entering dialogue and setting up a festival to reach out to the nationalist community.
But after Saturday's parade, trouble erupted again on the edge of the Bogside and there have been calls for a shortened march and for a re-routed return parade by the Parent Clubs.
Dean Morton's views were echoed by Billy Moore, General Secretary of the Apprentice Boys, who said: "It is time that we took a stand on this issue because all we get from nationalist leaders is empty words."
He has called upon nationalists in the city to reciprocate goodwill measures shown by the institution - and has urged traders to do more to attract march spectators into city centre shops.
Mr Moore pointed out that the Loyal Order has already moved dates, put restrictions on the number of people participating and has organised a cultural community festival in a bid to be more inclusive.
However, he says he feels that nothing is being done to mirror those gestures and said there was continued silence from the nationalist leadership on sustained attacks against both parades and the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall.
He added that trade lost at last Saturday's parade was partly caused by shops being shut, and suggested that, rather than trade being damaged by the march, people were wary of shopping in the city centre because of fears of rioting by nationalist youths.
Mr Moore added: "There are 240 branch clubs spread throughout the UK and we allow 130 to march. We ask clubs travelling from England and Scotland not to bring bands, but to amalgamate with clubs here. The parade has already been curtailed and we move dates in order to minimise disruption and people are still not happy.
"There are thousands of people who gather at Irish Street, Dungiven Road, Clooney Terrace and other areas to watch the parade and nothing is done to try and bring them into the shops in the city centre.
"The shutters are pulled down, instead of the Shutting of the Gates we have the shutting of the shops, Protestant people are made to feel most unwelcome, have nothing to come into the city centre for, because nothing is open. To be honest more people would be scared of getting injured by rioters rather than being put off by the parade.
"We are constantly being called upon to curtail and to restrict - why can't the attacks on the Memorial Hall, on people, on cars, be curtailed? This has been an ongoing situation for years.
"The Apprentice Boys have been here for centuries, we are the custodians of a huge part of the city's culture but yet we are not allowed to celebrate. People talk about a 'shared city' but nationalists only want a shared city as long as Protestants sit quiet, do nothing, say nothing and don't celebrate their own culture.
"Nationalist leaders like us to promote tolerance and good neighbourliness but that has to cut both ways. The ones that are out to cause trouble need to be taken off the streets, the attacks on our culture need to stop and Protestants from the city and further afield need to be made welcome, not ignored and closed out."
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Weather for Londonderry
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 8 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: North west