‘The Twelfth is still on - but format will be different as NI emerges from pandemic’
Just as last year, Twelfth of July Celebrations will not be thwarted by Covid-19 this summer, a source in the Orange Order has confirmed.
The order is planning another scaled-down Twelfth to take account of the pandemic – but the day is expected to be more relaxed than last year when many people watched local parades from their front gardens.
Instead of the traditional single main parade in Belfast there will be a number of parades across the city.
“The idea is to spread the crowds out so that they don’t all go to one place,” the source said. “There will be at least five parades in Belfast compared to the normal one major parade.
“There will be smaller parades throughout the country too. The Twelfth of July is still on, very much so, but in the interests of Covid and public health, there will be numerous parades rather than the traditional Twelfth.
“The parades will all be compliant with Covid regulations – and we would encourage spectators to be the same.”
There will also be substantially more - and smaller - parades in the rural areas, where there are normally 17-18 main parades.
“For example, normally all the lodges from north Down would go to Bangor one year and Newtownards the next and Comber the next. But this year all those lodges are staying in their own districts to parade.
“So rather than one parade in Comber and one in Ards you have maybe 10 or 12 parades across north Down. The aim is to help people stay in their own areas.
“The Twelfth is very much still on – there are still parades happening, but to help with the Covid situation we don’t want everybody congregating in one place.”
The source went on to explain some more likely details.
“A lodge in the Banbridge area, for example, might meet in their hall and walk around their locale as one lodge. Then they may meet up with other local lodges to parade in Banbridge.“The big ambition next year is for everything to be back to normal.”
It is understood the order has suggested that districts do not organise the traditional ‘fields’ for traditional platform speeches and family picnics this year.
“I think the vast majority are doing a circular route around their town instead,” the source added.
Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said: “With the approach of the summer months and associated parades and cultural events we will continue to work within our established framework of partnerships to provide support and ensure that planned events take place with due consideration to Health Protection Regulations and all relevant legislation.
“As always, public safety will be our priority with appropriate and proportionate policing in place.”
Current guidance says up to 500 people can attend outdoor gatherings but this will likely be reviewed on July 5. Organisers must provide a risk assessment and participants should maintain social distancing and good hand and respiratory hygiene practices.
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