Ulster Unionist hails Enniskillen Apprentice Boys mass march - particularly the number of young people taking part

​A prominent unionist politician who was on the march in Fermanagh with the Apprentice Boys on Monday has praised the parade – and in particular the number of young people taking part.
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​Tom Elliott, who is a member of the Apprentice Boys' based in Kesh, said he had been "almost surprised" by the number of young men on parade.

He was speaking in the wake of the annual Easter Monday parade by the institution, which this year was held in Enniskillen for the first time in 11 years.

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Mr Elliott (a former leader of the UUP and current MLA for Fermanagh & South Tyrone, said the Enniskillen march had been a "positive celebration" of the Apprentice Boys "and the loyal orders in general".

The streets of Enniskillen were filled with colourful uniforms and bannersThe streets of Enniskillen were filled with colourful uniforms and banners
The streets of Enniskillen were filled with colourful uniforms and banners

"It was quite a sizeable parade," he said.

"We had people from all over Northern Ireland, and maybe even from the Republic of Ireland as well.

"There was a good crowd, and a lot of people were treating it as a break: they came down to Fermanagh for the weekend.

"Some bands stayed in Fermanagh last night and tonight, so it wasn't just a parade, it was a wee holiday for some."

The Graham brothers from Ballinran Branch in County Down before the parade.The Graham brothers from Ballinran Branch in County Down before the parade.
The Graham brothers from Ballinran Branch in County Down before the parade.
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He estimated that perhaps 4,000 people were on the roughly three-mile march, and maybe another 6,000 to 7,000 watching.

"There are only really three days that are celebrated in the Apprentice Boys: one is obviously the August demonstration to celebrate the main anniversary of closing the gates.

"December has the Lundy parade, and then there's Easter Monday."

Remarking on the age of the participants, he said: "I was pleased to see the large numbers of young people participating.

Proud of their union hats are Eamon Campbell and Wallace Wilmot from Coleraine at the parade in EnniskillenProud of their union hats are Eamon Campbell and Wallace Wilmot from Coleraine at the parade in Enniskillen
Proud of their union hats are Eamon Campbell and Wallace Wilmot from Coleraine at the parade in Enniskillen
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"Given the length of the walk, it's more appropriate for young people, nearly!

"I'd say there were quite a number who were maybe in their first or second year in the organisation.

"It almost surprised me to see the number of younger folks."