Orange Order Grand Secretary Rev Mervyn Gibson has urged everyone celebrating the Twelfth this weekend to enjoy themselves – but to celebrate at home and to socially distance if going out.
Almost 300 bands are marching from July 11 to 13, however the Orange Order has asked people not to follow them but to enjoy them only from their front door or garden.
Adherence to Coronavirus regulations has become a hotly debated topic after Sinn Fein leaders took part in the funeral of leading republican Bobby Storey.
However leaders of unionism have persistently appealed for the public not to let anyone’s example lead them into breaching regulations.
Rev Mervyn Gibson said: “The traditional Twelfth Parades have been cancelled but we want everyone to have a safe and enjoyable Twelfth of July. Please support our 2020 Twelfth at home – online, in your house and at your door.”
“Many of our bands are bringing the music to your home. Please don’t follow the bands. Stay at your door and in your garden and enjoy them. And if there is not a band near you, tune into Radio Boyne to hear traditional tunes.
“But whatever you do, obey the regulations, gather in groups of no more than 30 and socially distance. Have a great Twelfth of July.”
The Orange Order has launched a ‘Radio Boyne’ App for phones, or supporters can tune in via the Orange Order website.
Rev Gibson noted that the order does not organise 11th night bonfires and said he will not be attending any this year due to the pandemic. “But personally speaking I would prefer to see no bonfires this year.”
He noted that to stay within the current regulations, groups gathering in public must not exceed 30 and everyone must stay 2m apart.
UUP leader Steve Aiken acknowledged that many people feel “very aggrieved by the blatant flouting of the CoVID restriction rules” seen in recent days.
“However the restraint that has been shown so far, and I have no doubt will continue to be shown over the coming days, just further emphasises that we collectively put the good of all over the narrow few,” he said.
TUV leader Jim Allister urged everyone to “disappoint the critics this Twelfth”. He added that any failure to comply with regulations “will be seized on by our opponents and used to excuse the disgraceful scenes at the funeral of IRA terrorist Bobby Storey”.
He added: “Nothing would please Sinn Fein more than to be able to point at the conduct of Loyalists over the next few days and claim that our community is no better. We have a chance to show republicanism that we hold ourselves to a higher standard.”
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