While Belfast’s Twelfth demonstration was not the biggest to be taking place in Northern Ireland yesterday, it was easily the parade which got the most attention from the media.
All eyes were on the Province’s capital as Orangemen and women representing a total of nine districts – accompanied by approximately 60 bands – were cheered on by colourful crowds lining the route into Belfast.
The Millar Memorial Flute band led the parade from Belfast Orange Hall at Carlisle Circus into the city centre for a wreath laying ceremony at city hall.
The parade then made its way back out of the city centre to the demonstration field at Barnett’s Demesne off the Malone Road.
This six-mile route proved challenging, especially in the morning sunshine, and some senior Orangemen availed of minibuses so they could take part in the annual outing.
A large Scottish contigent took part in the Belfast parade, while the numbers were also boosted by the addition of a new homegrown Orange Lodge.
Parading on the Twelfth for the first time was the newly formed Gertrude Street Defenders LOL 525 from east Belfast.
Formed in March this year, it is the first new lodge to form in Belfast since 1993.
Made up of ex-members of Gertrude Star Flute Band, the idea to form the lodge was first floated at the band’s 50th anniversary in 2011.
Significantly the lodge includes 30 people who have never been in the Orange Order before, ranging from 18- to 70-year-olds.
The lodge picked up a dormant warrant first owned by Lees Temperance Lodge which changed hands to East Belfast Orange Volunteers and then lay dormant for a number of years.
Lodge member Jonathan McCully said: “It’s a proud day to take part in our first Twelfth parade as a lodge. Hopefully this is the start of a new era.
“The lodge has brought a lot of the band members back together. Our first master was also band master for 25 years. Although we’re young as an Orange Lodge we’ve some of our own history as a band.”
The main speaker at the Belfast demonstration was Rev Dr Ron Johnstone, grand chaplain of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland.
The theme of his address was this year’s 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
Rev Johnstone said: “The best-known motto of the Protestant Reformation, is After darkness light. That is an appropriate theme for this 327th Boyne anniversary thanksgiving service.
“Light is symbolic of the removal of the darkness of ignorance through the lamp of learning. It is also symbolic of the joy of deliverance from the darkness of persecution.
“The Orange Institution is the largest Protestant fraternity in the world and as such we are humbled yet honoured to be able to publicly celebrate the commencement of the Protestant Reformation.”
He added: “The term Protestant has been maligned, misunderstood, and too often misrepresented. It has been used wrongly by some in a political and social sense to label all non-Roman Catholics. Some evangelicals are reluctant to use the term and instead declare they are simply Christians. Others, while claiming to be Protestants, have embraced the very errors the Protestant Reformers opposed.
“We are unashamedly Protestant. We do not agree with or condone everything Martin Luther and other Protestant Reformers taught or did, but we stand where the Protestant Reformation stood on the vital question of how a sinner can be accepted before the Holy God.
“Sadly, many residents of Belfast, if they think of the name of Martin Luther at all, only think of him as a man who was involved in some minor doctrinal dispute among Christians away back centuries ago.
“The fact is that modern day life in Belfast would be unimaginable without the influence of Luther and the Reformation.”