Northern Ireland news

Spike in applications from bands to march on the Twelfth despite Orange Order's 'stay at home' call

The Twelfth of July parade in Belfast last year. Picture by Hugh Russell

A sudden spike in applications has seen as many as 80 loyalist bands apply to the Parades Commission to march on the Twelfth.

The applications have increased dramatically since restrictions on outdoor gatherings were eased.

Bangor Protestant Boys posted that they would now be parading through Kilcooley estate on July 13, posting on social media that people should stay at their doors and not follow behind the band.

Pride of the Bann Coleraine challenged a ruling against them holding a July 13 parade and later posted that the Parades Commission had been "forced to do a u-turn" and they would also now hold a parade, as well as Dervock Young Defenders from Co Antrim.

Read more: Caution urged over 'Twelfth at home' plans announced by Orange Order

The Orange Order has previously asked that people 'celebrate the Twelfth at home' by holding localised events in their own gardens.

The main demonstrations will not take place this year due to Covid restrictions.

However, since the regulations changed to allow up to 30 people to gather outside, provided social distancing can be observed, there has been an increase in applications for localised parades.

By yesterday afternoon there were 84 applications pending on the Parades Commission's website.

The Twelfth is being celebrated on July 13 as it falls on a Sunday this year.

Among the areas where applications have been made are Ballymena, Enniskillen, Newtownards, Randalstown, Kilkeel and Belfast.

The Orange Order confirmed on Wednesday that it had not changed its advice for people to celebrate the occasion at home.

A spokesperson for the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland said that "bands have encouraged a 'stay at home' message with the bands bringing music to them".

"This is a model the institution would support." the spokesperson added.

A spokesperson for the Parades Commission said that during lockdown "the majority of band parade organisers agreed to withdraw their notifications to parade".

"Since the easement on Monday evening permitting up to 30 persons outdoors, bands have submitted new notifications, mostly for the Twelfth.

"Parades are subject to Covid-19 Regulations, the enforcement of which is a matter for the NI Executive and PSNI, including Regulation Six restricting numbers to 30 persons.

"The Commission's role is focused on community relations, disruption to community relations, disruption to community life, public disorder and human rights," the spokesperson said.

They said the commission added that it has no role in imposing conditions on parades on the grounds of public health.

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