Twelfth of July parades have been cancelled due to coronavirus

Parades had been scheduled across Northern Ireland

The leader of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Wor. Bro. Edward Stevenson has today announced that the annual Twelfth of July demonstrations will not go ahead this year, joining a number of other celebrations which have been cancelled due to the global pandemic.

The annual event which gathers thousands of people every summer has been cancelled in accordance “with current Government health advice on restricting gatherings of people, self-isolation and social distancing”.

Stevenson said “It is with regret that I must cancel the 2020 Boyne Anniversary Parades. In the face of the growing crisis surrounding Coronavirus it is in the best interests of our members, their families and the wider community that this decision has been made”.

He added that “In the current circumstances, the gathering of hundreds of thousands of Orangemen and women, together with their accompanying bands and spectators, would not be responsible”, acknowledging that, “we must prioritise the safety of not only our members, but of the entire community”.

It has not been confirmed whether the eleventh night bonfires will be cancelled, this however is imminent given the cancellation of twelfth.

Adding to the calls for people to stay at home to risk further infection of the virus, also known as COVID-19, Stevenson noted, “The Orange Family has already lost members to this terrible virus whilst others are currently in hospital”.

He said: “I would encourage you to pray for all those who have been or will be affected by the Coronavirus and for those in our health service and other essential jobs who are working so hard to fight it.”

This isn’t the first time that the demonstrations have been cancelled due to public health concerns, with similar actions taken during the Spanish Flu crisis of 1918 and during WWI and WWII.

Alternative arrangements in further accordance with present guidelines are being explored, with the Lodge saying, “We will look at alternative ways the Twelfth of July can be appropriately marked in 2020”.

In a statement to The Belfast Tab, a spokesperson for the QUB Orange Society said: “Members of QUB Orange Society note with sadness the cancellation of the annual Twelfth of July demonstrations across the country. The annual battle of the Boyne celebrations across the province prove to be a rich part of the cultural tapestry of Northern Ireland, drawing crowds of hundreds of thousands”.

They added that: “The Orange Order has always instilled within her members a deep sense of civic responsibility and this decision exemplifies that, at times of crisis in our country’s history the Institution has never been found wanting in terms of its response and the current crisis is no different”.

QUB Orange Society defended the move, noting that, “The Institution is to be commended for their wise leadership and for prioritising public health. The silver lining is that for many interested in Orange culture it is an opportune time to remember that there is much more depth to Orangeism than just parading. Parading is an important expression of our cultural identity, but our cultural identity still exists without it, which is important to remember”.

Cover image: QUB Orange Society/Facebook