December 4, 2020

Arlene Foster: Celebrate Twelfth of July at home

Twelfth of July parades usually take place across Northern Ireland Image copyright Pacemaker

The Twelfth of July is not “cancelled” and should be celebrated at home, according to Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster.

Although some individual bands are planning to hold parades, large demonstrations have been called off in 2020 because of the risk of Covid-19.

Mrs Foster acknowledged it would be a “difficult” year for many as a result.

She was speaking on the Orange Order’s Radio Boyne station on Saturday evening.

Each year, the organisation marks the anniversary of the victory of Protestant William of Orange over Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in July 1690.

Although it has cancelled its summer parades along with the Royal Black Preceptory and Apprentice Boys of Derry, the Parades Commission has been notified of more than 250 parades from individual bands over the 11 to 13 July period.

Parades are usually held on 12 July but due to the Twelfth falling on a Sunday this year, it is being celebrated on Monday 13 July.

The latest Covid-19 guidance from the NI Executive allows for up to 30 people to meet outdoors while social distancing.

The commission said it considered it necessary to impose restrictions on three parades based upon “pre-existing parading tensions in those specific locations”.

It added there had been a “high level of positive engagement with the vast majority of organisers”.

Image caption Twelfth of July parades take place every year in Northern Ireland to mark the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne

Mrs Foster said she was particularly missing celebrating the day with her sister and brother-in-law who live in England.

“We know it’s all very difficult, but thanks to Grand Orange Lodge there’s a good way to celebrate at home this year,” she told Radio Boyne.

‘Make memories’

Referring to the risks from coronavirus, the first minister said “it’s very much under control at present”.

“We don’t want that to build up again when it could be a big challenge for us,” she added.

“We’re trying to protect the community, protect our older members.”

Supporting the Orange Order’s ’12th at home’ campaign, Mrs Foster encouraged people to “make memories with your children” and said “2020 will be a year we won’t forget”.

“It’s important we still celebrate the Twelfth and still celebrate our culture,” she continued.