Northern Ireland news

Concerns raised about special Twelfth in Newcastle, Co Down

Newcastle Co Down where a large Twelfth parade is being held Picture Mal McCann.
Marie Louise McConville

There are concerns that Northern Ireland's busiest seaside town could be effectively closed to day trip business tomorrow as it welcomes 6,000 Orangemen for a special Twelfth of July celebration.

On what is one of the most popular Summer bank holidays and a day when thousands of families usually undertake day trips to Newcastle, around a further 20,000 Orange Order spectators will be in the town to watch the parade.

Orangemen and bands from Mourne District will join with their peers from Castlewellan, Ballynahinch, Lecale, Saintfield and Comber for the parade.

The main parade, along with 50 bands, is due to commence at 12pm from Donard Park, with lodges and bands proceeding the two-mile route through the town via Bryansford Road, Railway Street and Main Street before returning to Donard Park for the religious service at around 2pm.

At the field, Rev Mervyn Gibson, Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, will deliver an address.

At 3.45pm, the Orangemen will begin their journey home by returning along the route from Donard Park, on to Bryansford Road, Main Street and Dundrum Road. This is expected to take until 5pm.

It is anticipated the Twelfth celebrations will lead to traffic problems along the already busy one-way system as it is thought the road will have to be closed on at least two occasions during the day for the parades.

There were also concerns raised about disruption for families travelling to Newcastle for the bank holiday and also for local businesses, who may lose out if day-trippers stay away.

Sinn Féin councillor Willie Clarke said he had been "lobbied quite hard on it in regards to a lot of people not wanting the parade".

"The town centre doesn't lend itself to hosting large parades, it's basically a one-street town and it's predominately a nationalist town, 80 per cent of the community is unable to go about business," he said.

"I think there's other towns it could go to. I have concerns. I have spoken to the police".

Mr Clarke said it was likely those who had been planning to visit Newcastle tomorrow will "avoid it and probably go to the outskirts".

"I've explained my concerns in regards to the parade," he said.

Mr Clarke added: "We have to deal with it as best we can. We have to respect the unionist culture also. It's a big day for them, we have to ensure it goes off without incident".

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