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31 July 1997 Edition

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Derry march agreement?

Derry residents, as well as those in small villages, are wondering if this time the Apprentice Boys might actually take the opportunity created for them by the conciliation efforts of the Bogside residents and others, and march with consent in Derry.
Bogside residents approached Rev. Roy Magee, a well-respected Protestant clergymen instrumental in negotiating the1994 Loyalist ceasefire, to mediate in the dispute. Derry Mayor Martin Bradley of the SDLP also held separate meetings with both residents and community groups, and the Apprentice Boys, seeking a path through the impasse over the planned Apprentice Boys march on 9 August in Derry.

Magee, referring to the residents, said ``there's a large measure of agreement and conciliation'' and offered the opinion that ``agreement is not far away.''

Residents told the Apprentice Boys that if the `Boys' can control ``feeder marches'' in areas such Dunloy, Bellaghy and Lower Ormeau, that they would not object to them marching in Derry.

The Apprentice Boys agreed to ``exercise influence and flexibility'' regarding these feeder marches, although insisted that they could not control any branches, as each operated independently. They also agreed to consider proximity talks with the Bogside residents about the August 9th march.

Bogside residents spokesperson Donncha MacNiallais welcomed the progress but rejected claims that the Apprentice Boys could not control branches in other areas:

``The Grand Lodge of Ireland was able to dictate change to local lodges on July 12th. Last year on August 10, there were no problems with feeder parades in areas such as Dunloy, Bellaghy and Lower Ormeau. Obviously they were getting direction, which had to come from the General Committee of the Apprentice Boys.''

MacNiallais said nationalists would like assurance from the Boys on the feeder parades issue. ``There's not much use having people ``use their influence'' if at the end of the day, that doesn't resolve the issue, and people are forced off their streets by RUC personnel in Dunloy, Lower Ormeau or Bellaghy.''

A generous face-saving opportunity has been created for the Apprentice Boys. Will they rise to the occasion?
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