Northern Ireland news

Orange Order calls off all marches and meetings amid coronavirus outbreak

Members of the Orange Order marching past St Patrick's Church on Donegall Street in Belfast. All Orange Order meetings, parades and events have been called off. Picture by Matt Bohill

ALL Orange Order meetings, parades and church services have been called off amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The body's grand master, Edward Stevenson, said the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland made the decision after Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised people to stop "non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel".

Mr Stevenson said the decision was "unprecedented, but necessary".

The Museum of Orange Heritage at Schomberg House in east Belfast and Sloan’s House in Loughgall, Co Armagh, closed yesterday.

The order's headquarters at Schomberg House will close from Friday.

"I appreciate that our culture and traditions are very much a way of life for the orange family, however in light of the current situation, we must all prioritise the safety of not only our members, but of the entire community," Mr Stevenson said.

"As an all island organisation, we ask all members to follow fully the individual health advice of their respective governments."

Mr Stevenson appealed to "all able-bodied members, who are not deemed to be at risk" to volunteer to help others in need.

"We are a fraternal and charitable organisation and we must show support and benevolence not only to our members, but to all communities in the weeks and months ahead," he said.

"Lodges are asked to ensure they have contact details for all members. It is important that we keep in regular contact with each other, but especially those who are required to self-isolate in their homes and particularly those who may not have the support of local family members."

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Northern Ireland news