The Co Fermanagh demonstration has always featured a strong cross-border element.
It is the largest event involving Orange Order members from the Republic, with lodges from Leitrim leading the parade yesterday followed by their counterparts from Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal.
But now the North/South connection is extending beyond the Orange institution, thanks in part to the Brookeborough venue of this year’s Twelfth — the first time it has been held there for 13 years.
The community association in the historic village has formed links with a similar group just across the border in Riverstown over recent years.
And the Co Sligo citizens agreed to make the trip after being visited by leaders of the Order and invited to try a ‘Twelfth’ for themselves.
“They would have been quite apprehensive about coming on the Twelfth,” former county grand master Tom Elliott said.
“But a group have come here for the first time this year.
“A group of us from the Orange Order went down to meet them, talk to them and answer their questions, and I am very glad to say they agreed to come.”
The special cross-border guests are an extension of last year when members of a historical society from Longford joined the annual celebrations in Lisbellaw.
Although he is an Ulster Unionist MLA, there are no political speeches at the Fermanagh assembly. Instead Mr Elliott proposed the province-wide resolutions on faith, loyalty and the state during a strictly religious service.
It was well after noon by the time the main parade along the mile-and-a-half route got underway in bright sunshine en route for the ‘field’ at Keeoge on the main A4 road to Belfast. The massive crowd attending meant some traffic disruption.
Lodges from all 15 Fermanagh districts were joined by around 70 bands, including Brookeborough’s own flute band.
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