The cities of Belfast, Armagh and Newry will each host large Twelfth of July demonstrations as the Orange Institution returns to its traditional celebrations this year.
After two years of alternative celebrations due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, 18 venues in Northern Ireland will be playing host to processions to mark the 332nd anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne.
Preparations are at an advanced stage for the biggest day in the parading calendar, with upwards of an estimated half-a-million people expected to participate or spectate in what is widely regarded as one of the largest annual festivals in Europe.
Thousands of Orangemen, women and juniors – accompanied by in the region of 600 marching bands – will step out at the various locations.
The traditional sight and sound of Lambeg drums will add to the festivities in Armagh, which will be featuring in a live television broadcast by GB News. A large Scottish contingent is expected in Belfast, as the city hosts the longest Twelfth parade on the day, with participants walking over six miles to the field. The capital city and Ballymena are the only venues where Twelfth demonstrations occur annually.
Other sizeable parades will take place in Enniskillen (Fermanagh), Castlecaulfield (Tyrone), Limavady (Londonderry) and Newry (Down).
Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, welcomed the return of the traditional parades.
“I am delighted that the Orange Institution will return to its traditional Twelfth of July celebrations this year,” the Grand Master said.
“In 2020 and 2021 we found alternative ways to mark the Twelfth, firstly with a ‘Twelfth at Home’ and then a ‘Twelfth near Home’, which featured smaller, localised parades.
“While I commend everyone for participating in these initiatives, which were designed to combat the spread of Covid-19, I’m sure we will all be delighted to return to our traditional parades.”
The Grand Master highlighted that the significance of Orange traditions will be underlined by the scale of the parades.
“I do not believe there is any other event on these islands that can bring such vast numbers of people onto the streets to enjoy our processions, either by taking part or simply to watch them go by," he said.
"It is a custom which has been maintained for over 200 years, passed through generations, and will continue to be upheld for many years to come.”
Mr Stevenson will be in attendance at the Bushmills demonstration.
The senior Orangeman added: “We continue to welcome an increasing number of international visitors to our celebrations who are keen to experience first-hand the spectacle of the biggest day in the parading calendar.
“High calibre music provided by some of the finest marching bands will only add to the festival atmosphere. We look forward to another glorious Twelfth.”
The 18 demonstrations on Tuesday July 12 will be held at Glenarm, Ballymena, Bushmills, Antrim, Cullybackey, Magheragall, Armagh City, Belfast, Ballygowan, Greyabbey, Newry, Ballymartin, Enniskillen, Limavady, Tobermore, Castlecaulfield, Omagh and Aughnacloy.
The Twelfth demonstrations will follow the traditional Rossnowlagh parade held in the Republic of Ireland on the preceding weekend. This year the annual Donegal procession takes place on Saturday July 9.