Hay would 'take risks' to tackle Protestant alienation
FOYLE'S DUP Asembly member William Hay has said he is willing to take political risks to help find a way of making Londonderry a more inclusive city.
And, as the dust settled on the recent Relief of Derry parade, he also said that Protestants had begun to return to shop on the cityside and that care must be taken to encourage this rather than drive them away.
Mr Hay, who is also a councillor, added: “Mixed signals are being sent out and people need to be very careful. It’s like saying to Protestants, ‘we want your business 363 days a year, but on the days when you want to celebrate your heritage and culture, we’d rather you stayed away.”
Mr Hay spoke as unionist leaders reacted with concern to comments made by a number of nationalist leaders and traders after republicans rioted following the recent Apprentice Boys’ parade.
In particular, Mr Hay said he was surprised that the chair of the City Centre Initiative, Brendan Duddy, had called for the annual Apprentice Boys’ parade to be cut in half and the return journey to the city centre scrapped.
Mr Duddy said: “We are going to enter into additional dialogue with the Apprentice Boys about the possibility of having the length of time that they march reduced.
“The problem is that the parade has expanded from 100 bands to 150 bands in recent years. I think from 9am until 1.30pm would be enough. That means looking seriously at the return parade which goes on to 5.30am or 6pm.”
The businessman also said the traders’ view is based solely on business, rather than political, concerns.
“Traders within the town very much understand the Apprentice Boys’ tradition and the way they express it.
“We agree with them marching but there has to be a methodology where traders can do business.
“We are not going to enter into what happens when people object to the parade.
“That is for others to deal with. We are not politicians, we are traders,” he said.
Mr Hay has been heavily involved in the groundbreaking process that has led to agreements being reached on Loyal Order parades in Londonderry.
He said he acknowledged that Brendan Duddy had also done good work behind the scenes, but added: “Everyone connected with parades on the unionist side is surprised at his statement.
“If he has such an opinion, it would have been better expressed in the talks arena, rather than in public.
“His decision to go public has been most unhelpful.
“It’s my opinion that this issue with traders is the last major one that needs to be resolved, but it should have been done calmly in discussions between the Loyal Order and traders not with a public statement while tensions were high.
“We are prepared to listen to the concerns of traders, but they must also listen to us, and that hasn’t been the case with them all over the years.”
Mr Hay said that Londonderry was increasingly adopting a very strong nationalist identity and that unionist viewpoints were being swept aside.
This year alone, unionists have reacted with alarm at a number of issues, like the drive to change the name of the city, the council’s insistence that an Irish element must be incorporated into all civic festivals, and at Sinn Fein’s decision to hold a tribute to dead IRA members in the Guildhall later this year.
Mr Hay said the parades issue was now part of a wider problem and that nationalists should recognise that the depth of Protestants’ feeling of exclusion.
He added: “People need to be very very careful at the moment. I know the vast majority of traders genuinely want Protestants to come into the city centre, but mixed signals are being sent out at the moment.
“I personally have taken political risks to try to help get a resolution on parades, and I know many people have taken risks.
“I am willing to take those risks again to finally get a resolution not just on the parades issue, but because this is part of the wider issue, I am prepared to take more risks to sit down with people and try to work out how we can make this a more inclusive city,” concluded the Foyle Assembly member and leading member of the Apprentice Boys.
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Weather for Londonderry
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 9 C
Wind Speed: 26 mph
Wind direction: North
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Wind direction: North