Thousands attend Belfast Orange Order celebrations for Twelfth

Two Shankill Road homes gutted and a third damaged after sparks spread from bonfire


Norman Calderwood (69), a member of the 1982 St Brendan’s Temperance Orange Lodge, had “a brilliant day” at the annual Twelfth of July parade in Belfast yesterday.

As always, Belfast staged the biggest of the many Orange Order celebrations held across Northern Ireland, with thousands marching through the city and many more lining the streets.

“It’s our celebration. I love it. Protestant culture is being eroded a bit, but I love being British in Northern Ireland,” he declared.

He had strong opinions, too, on the outcome of the UK’s referendum on EU membership. “I voted Leave because it’s better for Northern Ireland money-wise and every other way. Theresa May was a Remain voter. A Brexit person should have been prime minister.”

The Belfast celebrations followed a night when two homes in the Shankill Road area were gutted and a third badly damaged after sparks spread from one of the many bonfires built to mark the eve of the Twelfth.

Anne McCormick (46) from Larne said she “loves the atmosphere” in Belfast over the Twelfth but did not believe loyalist culture was being eroded. She voted Leave, too: “We are better off out of Europe. The peace process will not be affected at all.”

Brexit reaction

Mark Williamson

Billy Murray (47) from east Belfast, an Orangeman in 6th District, believed the UK should have voted to stay in. “I don’t think it will mean a lot for Northern Ireland. I think the Border will stay the same, so it should do. But I still think we should be part of Europe. We are better in than out.”

Andrew Robinson from Newtownabbey, a cement business manager, wanted a renegotiation of the UK’s membership conditions, but not an exit: “I was hoping for a slight stay and then get a better deal negotiated in Europe. I think everyone wasn’t sure what it involved and are undecided on it yet.”

Like nearly 40 per cent of Northern Ireland’s voters, Charlene McCullough did not cast a ballot in the referendum. Watching the city centre parade with her children, including a baby boy wearing a “Michael’s first Twelfth” outfit, with “Ulster Prince” accessories, she explained: “I didn’t vote. There was that much hemming and hawing about it I didn’t bother. I am not worried about it.”

Tom Caughtrie (70) from Ayr in Scotland comes to Belfast every year for the Twelfth: “I love the company, people, going for a pint and refreshments.” The Twelfth was a celebration of life and culture that would be strengthened by the UK’s departure from the EU, he believed: “We voted Remain [in Scotland], but I voted out. I don’t want Brussels running the place. It will be better for the UK, we will all get jobs now.”

Frederick Cahoon (64) from Belfast has been a member of the Orange Order since he was “a wee boy holding strings”. “It’s a great tradition that should be carried on. It’s our way of life. I don’t want to see new parades but I want to see the old ones stay.

“When I was a young one growing up I had mates, Roman Catholics, who helped me to collect wood and would have walked to the parade with me and there was no trouble.”