Leading article: Now, hope marches down Bogside

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The Independent Culture
THE BEST news of a wet and humid summer has come from, of all unexpected places, Londonderry. The agreement on the annual march, which could have set the whole province alight again, has been something that the whole country can take cheer from. The traditional August marching will now take place in the form of 13 individual marchers laying a wreath in the memory of the city's Protestant dead at the cenotaph. This, it has been agreed, will suffice - and without belittling a piece of history that the Protestant order has every right to commemorate whilst also doing justice to the feelings of resentment unsurprisingly experienced by the Catholic residents of Bogside when their community gets symbolically invaded each year.

It would be distasteful directly to connect the appalling events of last month - when three children died in a fire started by hatred - with this cheering outcome. But it does seem appropriate to reflect that the incident knocked the collective wind out of people everywhere and threw the disturbing post-peace-settlement events at Drumcree into sharp focus. A feeling arose that something was seriously fractured in a world where in the name of the past such a pointless tragedy had actually occurred in the present. It is more than possible that it may have provided an additional spur to the Londonderry negotiators. Who could fail to be moved by the Quinn family's loss?

The events of 310 years ago, when 10,000 Protestants died during the siege of Derry by Catholic James II, live on in the minds of many. But they are right to conclude this is possible without provoking a down-scale reprisal. It is a cliche, but only because it is true: those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are condemned to repeat them. In this instance it appears lessons about the quiet virtues of tolerance and respect are those commanding the most rapt listeners. No other outcome could offer such hope for the future.

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