The Twelfth is about celebration and I want people across Northern Ireland to enjoy the music and pageantry at their local Twelfth by having a fantastic day out with their family and friends. Everyone involved in the Twelfth demonstrations should behave in a responsible manner and at all times respect the rule of law.
Tens of thousands will take to our streets in towns and villages all over Northern Ireland. Almost every parade will be embraced by the local community and will pass without incident.
In the handful of contentious areas, I urge everyone to express their views in a dignified, peaceful and lawful manner. Whilst many within the community strongly disagree with determinations of the Parades Commission, it is vital that no section of the community allows itself to be drawn into a violent reaction or confrontation. If anyone feels violence is the way to express their frustration at the Parades Commission, I urge them not to tarnish the name of the Loyal Orders and respect the Grand Master’s call to stay away.
The combined unionist leadership has come together to demonstrate that there is a better way forward. We want people to channel their anger at perverse Parades Commission decisions into a peaceful and lawful way forward. Our approach is not a short-term reaction where young people get a criminal record – rather it will play out as part of a long-term strategy.
Our society needs to respect the culture of the unionist tradition. Those who criticise my work with the Orange Order must realise that Loyal Order members live and work in this community. Their culture should be respected and they should have a place in our shared future. I want a Northern Ireland where there is respect and tolerance for all cultural expressions.