By Rebecca Black, PA
The Orange Order is hopeful of staging some form of July 12 parades in Northern Ireland this year.
The traditional parades were cancelled last summer due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Orange Order grand secretary the Rev Mervyn Gibson told Radio Ulster: “We said we would talk to the chief medical officer and the health minister and the First Minister, as we have done every time – we haven’t spoken to them yet but the signs are looking good as things are eased.
“There will be some form of Twelfth of July – we haven’t taken a decision what that will look like.
“We are preparing three scenarios, one is a full Twelfth of July, the other is a localised Twelfth of July and the third would be the same as last year, Twelfth at home.
“I don’t think the third will happen because I think we’re too far down the road of getting out of lockdown and vaccination.
“Depending on what the health advice is, it’ll be one of the former two, but there will be parades, I believe, on the streets of Northern Ireland this year to celebrate the Twelfth.”
Mr Gibson said he also expected some form of celebration of the centenary of Northern Ireland.
“I think there should be celebrations of the centenary in any form that local people think is appropriate,” he said.
“I know there had been plans for beacons, but it’s for local people to decide what they want to do – it might be a barbeque, parade or a church service giving thanks for the last hundred years, but people need to celebrate.”
The UK Government has plans to mark the centenary, but Mr Gibson said it does “not affect too many on the ground”.
“People will celebrate locally,” he said.
“But the health of everyone in the country comes first and whatever the prevailing regulations are at the time, we have to obey them.”
The Orange Order had planned a major parade to take place in May to mark the centenary.
“We have said we will do it at a time when we can do it in the right way, we don’t want to scale down the parade… the major event that the orange would be holding in the year to celebrate the centennial, as we call it,” he said.
“If that’s later this year or into early next year… we will hold it in a manner befitting of 100 years of Northern Ireland.”