Northern Ireland news

Scaled down Apprentice Boys' march to go ahead on Saturday

The annual August march would normally attract up to 20,000 Apprentice Boys' members and supporters to Derry. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin.
Seamus McKinney

A substantially scaled-down Apprentice Boys' Relief of Derry parade is set to take place this Saturday.

The annual August march traditionally attracts around 20,000 Apprentice Boys members, bands and supporters and is the largest single loyal order parade in the north.

However, this year's march has been reduced to just eight bands with 750 members and around 500 supporters due to Covid restrictions.

Apprentice Boys' General Secretary Billy Moore said that while the march was far from what the organisation desired, current health needs dictated that it would be on a reduced level.

Saturday's march, which commemorates the end of the 1689 Siege of Derry, will include a parade around the city walls followed by a wreath laying ceremony at the cenotaph before the main parade to the Waterside and back.

Mr Moore said: “We have encouraged members to commemorate the end of the siege in their own areas.

"Following the strict guidelines last year, this year's commemoration is a step in the right direction but it is far from what would be ideal in terms of the governing body or the membership. But we have a duty to protect everyone in the organisation and in our community.

“It would be selfish to do anything else at the moment so this is the best plan.”

The Apprentice Boys' spokesman said the organisation would follow all the usual traditions associated with the Relief of Derry, including the firing of a canon at midnight tomorrow and the traditional “touching of the gates” ceremony on Friday night.

While the annual parade has led to serious trouble in Derry in the past, it has been virtually trouble free in recent years following the establishment of what has become known as “the Derry Model” of negotiation over contentious events. In 2019, the parade was widely criticised when the Clyde Valley band from Larne wore insignia supporting former paratrooper, Soldier F while marching through Derry.

The commemoration gets underway at 11am and is expected to continue until around 4.30pm.

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Northern Ireland news