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Apprentice Boys of Derry invite Highland Council representatives to meeting following controversial march

By Val Sweeney

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The march by the Apprentice Boys of Derry in Inverness promoted controversy. Picture: Federica Stefani.
The march by the Apprentice Boys of Derry in Inverness promoted controversy. Picture: Federica Stefani.

Officers of the Protestant organisation, the Apprentice Boy of Derry, have invited Highland Council representatives to a meeting.

It follows a controversial parade through the streets of Inverness earlier this year, sparking heavy criticism from members of the public and a call for the council to refuse permission for any such future marches in the Highlands.

The organisation has now invited council representatives to a meeting at its Scottish headquarters in Partick “to gain a deeper understanding”.

PICTURES: Controversial march parades through Inverness despite heavy public criticism

More than 1500 people within 24 hours sign petition opposing Inverness march

The march, which was held in April, was organised by the City of Inverness Campsie Club, an associated member of the broader organisation Apprentice Boys of Derry.

Its website describes the Apprentice Boys of Derry as “a Christian, historical and cultural organisation, committed to maintaining the spirit of courage and liberty displayed by the Defenders of Londonderry in 1688-1689.”

But the march, involving the closure of city streets, provoked strong opposition with more than 5000 people signing a petition in just over a week to ban it.

Aird and Loch Ness Green councillor Chris Ballance also put forward a motion at the full council meeting in May maintaining that the Orange Order marches were founded on anti-Catholic sectarianism and had no place in the Highlands.

The motion, which sought officers examine means by which they could refuse permission for any future Orange Order marches in the Highlands, was defeated.

Instead, an amendment was carried, agreeing that the council would continue to work in collaboration with local members, Police Scotland and others to consider applications to hold marches on a case by case basis.

A letter, signed by Brother Richard Nelson secretary of the Scottish Amalgamated Committee, Apprentice Boys of Derry, is now inviting Cllr Ballance along with council leader Cllr Raymond Bremner and council chief executive Derek Brown to a meeting.

It states: “This meeting will provide an opportunity for you to gain a deeper understanding of our organisation, its traditions, and cultural heritage, which was discussed during the council meeting by yourself.”

It says the organisation “commemorates the Relief of Londonderry after a 105-day siege, during which historians record that up to 10,000 inhabitants perished due to famine, disease, and conflict”.

It also says as a Protestant organisation, it holds no animosity towards its Catholic neighbours and many Catholics participate in its annual festival in Londonderry and visit its museum.

Mr Nelson also says its leadership and members are actively involved in numerous peace-building initiatives in Londonderry and Scotland, fostering harmony and mutual understanding.

He hopes the invitation will foster a more informed dialogue.

“We are also eager to continue collaborating positively with Highland Council and Police Scotland to ensure our processions are both economically beneficial for Inverness and other areas and are always conducted in a peaceful manner that honours our heritage and culture that under the European Convention Rights allows all faiths to do so,” he writes.

Highland Council has been approached for comment.

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