Twelfth of July demonstrations cancelled

Edward Stevenson, the Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, has confirmed that the Orange Institution will not hold its annual Twelfth of July demonstrations this year.

“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.

“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.

“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. 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.”

It’s not the first time the Twelfth has been disrupted. Parades were not consistently held during the First and Second World Wars or during the ‘Spanish Flu’ epidemic of 1918. The Grand Lodge recalls that flags were flown and Orange Lilies were displayed instead. Brian O’Neill tongue-in-cheek April Fool post on Slugger may now offer an actual alternative!

“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.

“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.”

With the parades cancelled, the focus will shift to communities and whether the tradition of Eleventh Night bonfires will continue given the large crowds that are attracted to view them when lit.

Ulster Unionist leader, Steve Aiken, welcomed the Orange Order’s “sensible” decision:

“I am glad they have made an early decision to cancel this year’s Twelfth celebrations. We are in unprecedented times and I commend the Orange Order for putting the health of our citizens first and taking this decision … These are extraordinary times, and they require extraordinary decisions for the benefit of us all.”

Former MLA and now chair of the UUP, Danny Kennedy, commended the OO’s leadership:

“I also pay tribute to members of the institution across Northern Ireland and further afield who are playing their part in the community response to Covid19, and organising food hampers and supplies to those who are self-isolating.”

DUP leader and First Minister, Arlene Foster, said:

“It is obviously very disappointing for many people that the annual 12th July celebrations have been cancelled. However, the decision by the Orange Institution not to hold the parades is a responsible step as the priority for us all must be public health and protecting lives … There will be a great deal to celebrate when we do finally have the opportunity to meet again.”