Orange Order calls for Twelfth of July to be celebrated at home

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By Rebecca Black, PA

The Orange Order has urged that the twelfth of July be celebrated at home.

Grand Master Edward Stevenson made the call on the eve of the day that traditionally sees hundreds of Orange lodges take to the streets to mark the victory of the Protestant King William of Orange over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

With coronavirus regulations limiting outdoor gatherings in Northern Ireland to 30, the institution took the historic step of cancelling all of its parades.

The message has been backed by First Minister Arlene Foster and Health Minister Robin Swann.

Many have expressed frustration at the cancellation of the events following the gathering of hundreds of people, including deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill and Finance Minister Conor Murphy, at the funeral for veteran republican Bobby Storey.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland is currently investigating the incident for potential breaches of the coronavirus regulations.

"I think it is important to remember why we have the socially distanced guidelines in place, they're there to protect the community, they are there to protect our families and elderly relatives," Mrs Foster told the BBC.

"I know that people are frustrated when they saw the scenes in west Belfast and they say, 'hold on, if that can happen there, why can't I do it?', but you have to remember you can't just fall below the standard required of the community just because others do it.

"I am appealing to people to celebrate the Twelfth absolutely, but to do at home and in a way that protects our community."

She added: "Everybody has a responsibility to show leadership and I very much hope that not just DUP members but everyone who is celebrating the Twelfth tomorrow does so in a way that respects the social responsibility and indeed respects the coronavirus regulations and the guidance."

A number of bands have indicated they will stage small scale parades, aiming to bring the music to the doors of the community.

A smaller than usual number of loyalist bonfires were lit on Saturday night due to calls to respect the coronavirus regulations.

However, there were significant crowds at several fires that did go ahead.

Meanwhile, in north Belfast, there was a second night of sporadic disorder near a community interface as police came under attack from petrol bombers in the nationalist New Lodge close to a bonfire in the loyalist Tiger's Bay area.

Some 554 people have died with the coronavirus to date in Northern Ireland.

The department of health announced on Thursday that the current estimate of the R rate in the region is between 0.5 and 1.0.

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