Londonderry has been billed ‘the city of post-conflict culture’ by Dr Paul Nolan’s in his third annual assessment of the peace in Northern Ireland.
The Community Relations Council’s Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report, which was published last week, says the success of UK Londonderry City of Culture 2013, bolstered that status whilst Belfast seethed.
Two years ago Dr Nolan claimed a new ‘cappuccino culture’ had developed in Londonderry, and this year he has concluded that this has been largely cemented by 2013.
In a chapter on ‘Cohesion and Sharing’ Dr Nolan points out that misgivings on the part of nationalists over the UK prefix to City of Culture soon dissipated, and that although the ‘legacy’ report card is not yet in, the year was a success.
“There were tensions between cultural activists and council officials, and claims that £120 million of capital investment accrued from the project remain to be tested,” the report cautions.
“More certain is that the City of Culture delivered more than could have been thought possible in terms of community relations,” he reports.
“The Fleadh Cheoil provided some of the special moments: the Police Service of Northern Ireland pipe band being applauded when it entered Guildhall Square and the Apprentice Boys opening up their hall as a venue while several flute bands attended a play about their music, The Pride, at the Irish language and culture centre, Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin.
“Meanwhile the Apprentice Boys march through the city in August – the event which sparked the Battle of the Bogside in 1969 – passed almost entirely without incident,” he adds.
The report claims two pivotal moments in making the City of Culture a success were the name compromise and the decision to bring the Fleadh to Londonderry.
“The insertion of the hyphen between the words ‘Derry’ and ‘Londonderry’ was the grammatical equivalent of the city’s Peace Bridge, a device to link the two communities without diminishing either,” states Dr Nolan.
“A second breakthrough came when Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann decided, after strong initial reluctance, to bring the all-Ireland Fleadh to the city.
“Dissident republicans were disarmed at a stroke: to attack the City of Culture would be to attack Irish culture. There were no further bombs,” he claims.
Dr Nolan also claims that the development of the One Plan, Derry City Council’s good relations strategy, the Saville verdict, the Peace Bridge and the demography of the city laid the foundations for a successful UK City of CUlture.
On the latter point on demography, Dr Nolan claims: “The changing demography of the city Catholics now comprise 72 per cent of the population, Protestants 22 per cent.
“The Catholic community has nothing to fear and, acting as a generous majority, has experienced a reciprocity of trust.
“The separation of most Protestants on the Waterside, across the river from the mainly Catholic Cityside, means the abrasions found in north Belfast, where the jumble of housing means the two communities are constantly rubbing up against each other, is largely absent.”