Apprentice Boys cancel August Relief of Derry parade
THE Apprentice Boys have cancelled their annual August Relief of Derry parade because of the Covid-19 crisis.
Held on the Saturday closest to August 12, the Apprentice Boys march commemorates the end of the 1689 Siege of Derry.
The event, which is the single biggest parade in Northern Ireland annually, attracts thousands of Apprentice Boys, bands and followers every year.
There was criticism following last year's march when the loyalist Clyde Valley band from Larne took part wearing insignia in support of former paratrooper, Soldier F. The Apprentice Boys' leadership later acknowledged the hurt the band had caused to Derry's nationalist majority.
Confirming the move yesterday, the organisation said the decision to cancel, planned for August 8, was taken with disappointment. The Orange Order has already cancelled this year's Twelfth however the Irish News has revealed that some bands - including Dervock Young Defenders have applied to the Parades Commission to march.
In a joint statement, the organisation’s governor, Graeme Stenhouse and general secretary, Billy Moore said: “We understand that this news will be disappointing to many. However, as the global Covid-19 pandemic persists, we believe we have an obligation and duty to protect the health and wellbeing of all members, band participants, visitors, traders and citizens.”
While the parade has been cancelled, the Apprentice Boys hope to stage a number of smaller events traditionally associated with the Relief of Derry march. These include the annual “touching of the gates” ceremony on the night before the parade.
The organisation also hopes to hold a small wreath-laying ceremony and to fly its flags from the Walker’s Plinth. Mr Stenhouse and Mr Moore instructed its clubs to postpone all parades until further notice but suggested they mark the August event by laying a floral tribute at their nearest war memorial.
The two officials pledged to resume Apprentice Boys’ events in August 2021.
“We plan to return next year, the centenary of Northern Ireland, with an exciting Maiden City Festival programme with the largest and most spectacular celebratory procession that has ever taken place in the city of Londonderry,” they said.