Coronavirus: Orange Order cancels Twelfth of July parades

Events were due to take place at 18 venues across Northern Ireland and Co Donegal

Members of the Orange Order take part in the Twelfth of July demonstration in Markethill, Co Armagh in 2014. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Members of the Orange Order take part in the Twelfth of July demonstration in Markethill, Co Armagh in 2014. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

The Orange Order on Monday has announced the cancellation of the annual Twelfth of July parades this year.

The institution’s grand master Edward Stevenson said the decision was taken in light of the coronavirus pandemic and followed consultation with the grand masters of England and Scotland, local county masters and senior officers.

“It is with regret that I must cancel the 2020 Boyne Anniversary Parades. In the face of the growing crisis surrounding coronavirus it is in the best interests of our members, their families and the wider community that this decision has been made,” he said.

All seventeen Northern Ireland parades have been cancelled as has the annual parade in Rossnowlagh in Co Donegal which normally takes place on the Saturday before the Twelfth.

And while the Eleventh Night bonfires are organised at local level in loyalist and unionist communities the order also advised that bonfires with crowds attending should be cancelled as well.

Mr Stevenson said that in the current circumstances the “gathering of hundreds of thousands of Orangemen and women, together with their accompanying bands and spectators would not be responsible”.

“I appreciate that our culture and traditions are very much a way of life for the Orange family. However in light of the current situation, we must prioritise the safety of not only our members, but of the entire community,” he said.

“For some, the coming days will be extremely painful. We must bear in mind that for many people there will be no return of normal life. They will have lost loved ones,” he added.

“The Orange family has already lost members to this terrible virus whilst others are currently in hospital. I would encourage you to pray for all those who have been or will be affected by the coronavirus and for those in our health service and other essential jobs who are working so hard to fight it.”

This cancellation of the Twelfth of July parades is not without precedent, Mr Stevenson explained. Parades were not held for a time during the First and Second World Wars or during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. At these times, alternative ways to mark the occasion were found, such as flying flags and displays of Orange Lilies.

The order is to examine how the Twelfth can be celebrated online. “We will look at alternative ways the Twelfth of July can be appropriately marked in 2020, following the guidelines and restrictions applicable at that time,” said Mr Stevenson.

He paid tribute to Orange members “across the province who are helping their communities through the provision of medical equipment, food parcels and other acts of support”.

He also reminded people of the need to follow the guidelines in place regarding self-isolation and social distancing.

Mr Stevenson added, “We look forward to the day that we can parade in celebration once again. However in the months ahead it is more important we work together to fight this terrible disease. The energies and resources of our institution are focussed on the fight against coronavirus. I pray that God will protect and lead us through the months ahead.”

The Deputy Master of Newtowncunningham True Blues Loyal Orange Lodge in Co Donegal, Stewart McClean, said it was a “very wise decision under the circumstances.”

He said the cancellation of the Twelfth parades was not unexpected, given that “people at the minute are so apprehensive and nobody knows what’s happening. The greater good always comes over everything,” he said.

“I’m sure those who are creative will probably be working on a virtual Twelfth of July online.”