Northern Ireland news

Loyalist parades planned during lockdown

The Twelfth parade in Belfast last year. The Orange Order has cancelled this year's Twelfth parades due to the coronavirus crisis. Picture by Hugh Russell
Connla Young

THE Parades Commission has received four notifications for loyalist parades since the start of lockdown despite the Orange Order cancelling this year's Twelfth.

Cookstown Grenadiers has applied to parade in the Co Tyrone town on July 11 in an event involving one band up to 30 participants.

The same band has also intends to turn out two days later on July 13, again one band and 30 participants will be involved.

Co Antrim based Dervock Young Defenders 'Blood and Thunder' flute band has notified the commission of its intention to hold a one-hour parade around the village on July 13.

The organisers claim the march will involve 24 participants.

The largest event organised by the South Belfast Cultural and Historical Society is due to be held on September 12.

Organisers want up to 500 participant and 1,000 supporters to take part in the parade around south Belfast.

None of the notifications has been listed as sensitive.

A spokesman for the Parades Commission last night said that organisers of each parade have stated “they will not hold their events if the Covid-19 regulations prohibit them”.

“The commission will keep all notified parades under review and will maintain communications with parade organisers and the PSNI regarding them,” he said.

“The commission has no role regarding the interpretation nor enforcement of Covid-19 regulations.”

In April the Orange Order confirmed it is cancelling all July celebrations this year in light of the Covid-19 health crisis.

At the time Grand Master Edward Stevenson said the decision had been taken "in the face of the growing crisis" and that gathering hundreds of thousands of Orangemen plus bands and spectators "would not be responsible".

Details of the application emerged just days after First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill outlined a plan to lift lockdown restrictions.

However, the Stormont leaders did not provide a timeline for a return to normality.

Dervock Young Defenders has been embroiled in controversy in the past.

In 2016 it was banned by the Parades Commission from taking part in a march through the mainly nationalist village of Rasharkin after an incident during a Twelfth of July parade in Ballycastle weeks earlier.

On that occasion members, some of whom were wearing Union flag facemasks, were involved in a confrontation with independent Causeway Coast and Glens councillor Padraig McShane, who was arrested.

Mr McShane was last night scathing of the parade plans.

“Causeway Coast and Glens council have only this week scrapped the Lammas Fair for 2020," he said.

“The North West 200 and other major events throughout the summer months have also been cancelled in an effort to keep people safe.

“This move by the bands can only be described as dumb.”

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the Parades Commission is contacting organisers of marches notified before lockdown on a rolling basis three weeks in advance of the event “to ascertain if they are aware of the Covid-19 regulations”.

The commission said the organisers of all parades up to June 5 have said they are aware of the regulations and have authorised it to withdraw their notifications.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news