The surge in bands notifying the Parades Commission of their intention to parade over the Twelfth season has continued to grow with over 210 now having lodged paperwork detailing their plans.
Over 25 bands are intending to parade on Saturday July 11 with over 175 on July 13, though it is not yet clear how many more may still apply in the days ahead.
Orange Order Grand Secretary Rev Mervyn Gibson welcomed the news, reiterating the Order’s position that “the Twelfth has not been cancelled”.
He added: “We have been quite consistent all along. The order is supporting bands parading in their own local areas where the parade has no more than 30 people. Local communities must stay in their own gardens and enjoy the bands as they pass by.
“Anything that is done must obey all current pandemic guidance, including that on social distancing. We hope people will have a very enjoyable ‘Local Twelfth’.
The Parades Commission appears to be quite relaxed about the surge in applications, after initial controversy about whether emergency coronavirus legislation forbade all such public gatherings.
“Early cancellation of the Twelfth has created the template for parading this summer, with the main demonstrations not taking place,” a spokesman said. “The Apprentice Boys and the Royal Black Preceptory have cancelled their August demonstrations.
“Individual bands with 30 participants have planned local parades on 11th to 13th July, to date 212 bands have notified parades.
“The Commission has had a high level of positive engagement with the vast majority of these bands, while a representative body of the bands is providing guidance on safe conduct, social distancing and supporters. Responsibility for adherence to the Covid-19 Regulations rests with all participants. Enforcement of the Regulations is a matter for the PSNI.”
The news comes after a small group of socially distanced Orangemen gathered at the bridge on Drumcree Hill in Portadown on Sunday to mark the 25th Anniversary of the Drumcree standoff.
Local MP Carla Lockhart of the DUP issued a statement wishing her constituents well for the parading season, encouraging people to mark the celebrations at home and in line with public health advice.
“The Twelfth of July Demonstrations and the 13th at Scarva are important days in the calendar for so many people across Upper Bann,” she said. “Important not just from a cultural aspect, and to express our faith, but also as a family day out.
“Sadly, due to the coronavirus pandemic we simply cannot gather together in our traditional way. Bringing thousands of people together would be irresponsible, and the leadership of the Orange Order and the Royal Black Institution are to be commended for their strong stance in the interest of public health. Likewise, our marching bands fraternity are to be commended for their commitment to safeguarding public health.
“I encourage everyone to join in the ‘Twelfth at Home’ initiative.”
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