Twelfth of July to be marked at home

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By Rebecca Black, PA

Northern Ireland's traditional day of parading to mark the twelfth of July is instead set to be celebrated at home.

Hundreds of Orange Order parades across the region have been cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Supporters have instead been encouraged by leaders, including First Minister Arlene Foster, to mark the date at home.

July 12 is commemorated by unionists and loyalists every year to mark the victory of the Protestant King William of Orange over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

But with coronavirus regulations limiting outdoor gatherings to 30, the institution took the historic step of cancelling all of its parades.

Many have expressed frustration at the move after 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.

Unionist leaders have urged that this frustration does not lead to defiance of social distancing rules.

Health minister Robin Swann has insisted that the public health advice is as important now as it was at the start of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, more than 200 notifications have been received by the Parades Commission from bands to stage local processions.

The Orange Order's Grand Secretary Mervyn Gibson said he is looking forward to the music being brought to his door.

"I hope everyone will have an enjoyable, socially distanced July 12," he told the PA news agency.

"I will be waving to a band as they pass my gates.

"I would urge all to enjoy the music if it comes to your door but if it doesn't, please don't go out to follow the bands, turn on Radio Boyne and listen to traditional tunes on the online station.

"Stay at home, have a barbeque, have a picnic with your family and any bubble you can go to.

"Whatever you do, obey the regulations."

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 were two second nights of sporadic disorder across Friday and Saturday 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.

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