Around 17,000 Sir Knights and hundrends of bands converged on six venues for the Royal Black Institution’s annual ‘Last Saturday’ demonstrations.
Sovereign Grand Master Rev William Anderson joined around 3,000 members on parade in Ballymoney where the Co Antrim demonstration was being hosted.
Large crowds of family, friends and spectators were also in attendance at the parades in Ballygowan, Dungannon, Holywood, Garvagh and Seskinore.
Addressing supporters in Ballymoney, Rev Anderson encouraged those attending to listen carefully to the messages contained within the three resolutions.
On the first resolution addressing issues of faith, Rev Anderson called on all present to return to reading the Bible and applying its important message to their everyday lives.
“We should read it expecting God to speak to us through His word. And on hearing Him speak be prepared to do what He asks,” he said
On the subject of loyalty to the Queen, Rev Anderson said such loyality “must mean more than nice-sounding clichés, wrapping ourselves up in the Union Flag or simply calling ourselves loyalists”.
He also recalled how Northern Ireland had endured what he called “a ruthless, violent campaign by republicans” for the reunification of Ireland.
He said: “As far as they are concerned, Ireland will be a much better place for us than remaining within the United Kingdom,” he said.
Rev Anderson pointed out that the UK is the fifth largest world economy, and posed the question: “Can we afford to move to this wonderful utopia called Ireland?”
The third resolution was on the constitution, when Rev Anderson referred to some of the present constitutional difficulties.
“Having the right to abort the life of a healthy baby, just because it is the woman’s right to have a choice, surely is wrong. Where is the right to life?” he asked.
“What of the defence of the family unit if we continue to break down the definition of marriage? The truth is we must have a clear understanding of who our relatives are if we are to avoid the ethical dilemma that awaits us if we allow the continued breakdown of family life.”
Rev Anderson went on to say: “We need to seriously check our understanding against our experiences of the past before allowing such momentous changes to our way of life today.”
At all six demonstrations, a statement was read on behalf of the Chaplains’ Committee.
It expressed “dismay, disappointment and great sadness at the recent passing of the amendments to the NI Executive Formation Bill paving the way to force through legislation which compromises the sanctity of marriage and endangers the lives of unborn children”.
The chaplains said that the Royal Black Institution “passionately believes in the right of the unborn child,” and that “being a Bible-based organisation we also believe and affirm that marriage between a man and a woman was instituted by God with Adam and Eve”.
The statement called on elected representatives to do all within their power to prevent the changes from being implemented.