Lockdown easing raises hopes of celebrating ‘the Twelfth’ in Northern Ireland

by Abigail Beresford

With the announcement of Northern Ireland’s ‘pathway to recovery’ to ease coronavirus restrictions, hopes are high that celebrations of ‘the Twelfth’ will be able to be held properly in July this year.

July 12 would have normally seen people filing the streets to watch the parade of the Orange Men in the summer’s sun but that had to be scaled back last year, due to coronavirus restrictions, with people encouraged to celebrate the ‘Twelfth at Home’.

The Reverend Mervyn Gibson, the grand secretary of the Orange Order, told the BBC last Thursday (APR8) that the “signs were looking good” for celebrations of the Twelfth to go ahead this year but nothing was yet certain.

“Last year was the first time in 37 years that our family had not attended the parade,” said Bradley McClean, 20, who studies Law at Queens University, Belfast, but is from Leicestershire.

“It’s an ongoing family tradition that we travel back to Belfast and celebrate alongside the rest of our Irish family.”

The Protestant holiday celebrates the defeat of King James II, a Roman Catholic, by William of Orange in the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

“The night before the Twelfth [the Eleventh night], we have a bonfire in the garden, whilst having a few beers and playing a few games,” added Bradley.

“The next day, we make sure we get up early to find a good spot to watch the Orangemen Parade. We put on our orange sashes, dress up nice, and yet again celebrating with a few drinks into the late hours of the night.”

The coronavirus pandemic prevented people from celebrating a big landmark for the national event, marking its 330thyear anniversary of celebration.

With pubs expected to reopen in Northern Ireland from April 30, there are hopes that people will at least be able to raise a drink to celebrate.

“It’s certain that this year we will be celebrating as much as we can, to make up for the loss of last year’s celebrations.”

Celebrating together: The McClean family dressed in their Orange Men attire in 2019

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