The Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Worshipful Bro. Edward Stevenson has confirmed that the Orange Institution will not hold its annual Twelfth of July demonstrations this year.
The decision has been taken in light of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic and follows consultation with the Grand Masters of England and Scotland, local County Masters and senior officers.
It is also in-line with current Government health advice on restricting gatherings of people, self-isolation and social distancing.
The Grand Master said: “It is with regret that I must cancel the 2020 Boyne Anniversary Parades. In the face of the growing crisis surrounding Coronavirus it is in the best interests of our members, their families and the wider community that this decision has been made.
“In the current circumstances, the gathering of hundreds of thousands of Orangemen and women, together with their accompanying bands and spectators, would not be responsible.
“I appreciate that our culture and traditions are very much a way of life for the Orange family, however in light of the current situation, we must prioritise the safety of not only our members, but of the entire community.
“For some, the coming days will be extremely painful. We must bear in mind that for many people there will be no return of normal life. They will have lost loved ones.
“The Orange Family has already lost members to this terrible virus whilst others are currently in hospital. I would encourage you to pray for all those who have been or will be affected by the Coronavirus and for those in our health service and other essential jobs who are working so hard to fight it.”
The cancellation of the Twelfth of July parades is not without precedent. Parades were not held for a time during the First and Second World Wars or during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. At these times, alternative ways to mark the occasion were found, such as flying flags and displays of Orange Lilies.
The Grand Master commented: “We will look at alternative ways the Twelfth of July can be appropriately marked in 2020, following the guidelines and restrictions applicable at that time.”
While paying tribute to Orange members across the province who are helping their communities through the provision of medical equipment, food parcels and other acts of support, the Grand Master reminded everyone of the need to follow the guidelines in place regarding self-isolation and social distancing.
He added: “We look forward to the day that we can parade in celebration once again, however in the months ahead it is more important we work together to fight this terrible disease. The energies and resources of our Institution are focussed on the fight against Coronavirus. I pray that God will protect and lead us through the months ahead.”
Parades had been due to take place at 17 venues right across Northern Ireland and also in Rossnowlagh, Co Donegal.