“Let’s disappoint the critics this Twelfth”.
That is the message from TUV leader and North Antrim MLA Jim Allister.
He said: “This Twelfth will be like no other we have seen in our lifetime. Towns up and down the Province will be deprived of the wealth of artistic and musical talent which is normally on display at this time of year and Northern Ireland will be the poorer for that.
“A few years ago the then Sinn Fein Mayor of Belfast praised the musical talent on display at the Belfast Tattoo. Ironically, one of those taking part was Dunloy Accordion, a band which cannot parade its own town any year because of opposition manufactured by Sinn Fein.
“This Twelfth, for one year, it is necessary to forgo many of the traditional celebrations. The Orange Order recognised this at an early stage in the pandemic and across the country, individual bands are making a special effort to bring some of the sight and sound of the Twelfth to people’s homes by socially distancing parading of many estates. These responsible decisions are to be commended.
“While there has been precious little recognition of the sacrifices loyalists across Nothern Ireland have made for the public good any failure to comply with the regulations will be ceased on by our opponents and used to excuse the disgraceful scenes at the funeral of IRA terrorist Bobby Storey. Nothing would please Sinn Fein more than to be able to point at the conduct of Loyalists over the next few days and claim that our community is no better.
“We, as a united community, have a chance to show Republicanism that we hold ourselves to a higher standard. While in normal times we would love to see a large turnout of Orangemen and bands to celebrate the civil and religious liberties secured at the Boyne this year keeping within the guidance is key if we are to disappoint our critics in Republicism and the media.
“Having forgone the celebration for the public good let us look forward to them coming back more colourful, bigger and louder than ever before for 2021 when we can mark the centenary of Northern Ireland in style,” said Mr Allister.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Robin Swann, who is also an Ulster Unionist MLA for North Antrim, has encouraged the public to enjoy the Twelfth celebrations and abide by the public health advice.
Mr Swann said: “2020 marks the 330th anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne and under any normal circumstances it should have been a time for celebration and social gatherings. However this year is different, and as the virus still lingers it still presents a threat to all in society, but especially the most vulnerable.
“So I would urge everyone – bands, lodges and supporters – to support the Twelfth at home. People may feel angry at the actions of others, but I would urge you all not to let others set your standards. Rise above it and look after your loved ones by following the public health guidelines and regulations. The Public Health advice is as important now as it was at the start of the pandemic.
“Coronavirus doesn’t recognise good intentions or moral stances, but it can bring devastation to families. So despite the selfish actions of some I would urge everyone else to stick with the public health guidance.
“The Twelfth is an important day and the Orange Order has announced many creative ideas of how it can be marked and celebrated from home. I would urge everyone to do that. There will be many more Twelfths to come, but for this one alone let’s safely celebrate it from home.
“Right from the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic I’ve been hugely impressed by the actions of the Loyal Orders.
“From the undoubtedly difficult early decision to suspend meetings and parades, to individual Orange lodges and bands delivering vital supplies and checking on vulnerable neighbours, together the Loyal Orders stepped up just as we faced the darkest health emergency in Northern Ireland’s 99 year history. For many years to come I am sure that those actions and the leadership shown by the Loyal Orders and bands will be very fondly remembered.
“Thank you for your support of the National Health Service throughout the course of the pandemic and the many personal messages of good will I have received. I wish you all a safe, peaceful and happy Twelfth.”
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