THE ANNUAL Northern Ireland 'Orange Marches' will not go ahead this year due to the ongoing threat of coronavirus, the Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland has confirmed.
The 12th of July annual marches, which take place across Northern Ireland, Scotland and one town in Donegal, have this year been cancelled "in the face of the growing crisis surrounding Coronavirus".
The Twelfth of July marches are undertaken each year by the Orange Order to celebrate the victory of King William of Orange over the Catholic King James II in 1688, which began the trend of Protestants dominating over Catholics in Ireland.
In a statement issued today, April 6, Grand Master Edward Stevenson announce that "with regret 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," he said.
“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.”
“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,” 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.”