Northern Ireland news

Orange Order would consider cancelling next year's Twelfth over Covid-19

Rev Mervyn Gibson. Picture by Philip Walsh
Brendan Hughes

THE Orange Order would consider cancelling the Twelfth again next year over Covid-19, a senior figure has said.

Grand secretary Rev Mervyn Gibson said it would depend on medical advice but they would "make the right decision".

The Orange Order cancelled annual Twelfth of July parades earlier this year due to the pandemic – the first time they had not been held since the Second World War.

Rev Gibson told the News Letter they would be willing to make the same decision in 2021.

"It depends on the medical advice at the time, but we'll make the right decision," he said.

"If there's a risk that crowds still spread Covid, I couldn't see us bringing crowds onto the street."

The cancellation was announced in April during the first wave of coronavirus, but by July the infection rate was subsiding and restrictions were being lifted.

In the wake of the Bobby Storey republican funeral controversy, there were concerns over what impact this would have on compliance with restrictions among unionists over the Twelfth.

Rev Gibson said consideration was given to "tinkering" with the initial decision before deciding to retain the same message.

He said that "if we brought crowds onto the streets, Covid was going to spread and that wouldn't be a responsible decision".

"Two wrongs don't make a right – we beat the argument which said, 'oh, they're doing it'."

Rev Gibson added that Orange Order membership is around 34-35,000 and there has been a "surge in membership, post-Covid".

He believes this is due to their community work in recent months, such as purchasing PPE and distributing food parcels.

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