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Thousands line the streets for Belfast's Twelfth procession

By Catriona Burns

Thousands lined the streets of Belfast yesterday to watch what is traditionally the largest Twelfth procession.

Starting from the Orange Hall at Carlisle Circus, the Miller Memorial Flute led around 70 bands along Clifton Street through Royal Avenue to Belfast City Hall.

Adding a holiday flavour to celebrations, food stalls assembled around City Hall offered everything from Spanish paella to a typical Belfast ‘Billy Burger'.

Pat Dyer from City Centre Chocolates said the market adds something new to the tradition.

“It gives the whole day a carnival atmosphere. We have to look to the future and next year we'll hopefully have more stalls. We'll start small and take it further as the years pass,” he said.

A sense of revelry flowed with the parade as it marched through Shaftesbury Square up the Malone Road to Barnett’s Demesne, where an assortment of food and craft stalls set the scene for the annual gathering.

James (70) and Elizabeth Welsh (58) from East Belfast have been attending the parade for as long as they both can remember.

“It's brilliant, as usual,” James said.

“It's fantastic to see the tradition being kept up to date. It's great the weather has been kind to us too.”

MLA for Strangford, Jonathan Bell, claimed this year's parade was the most successful yet. “It's the best day of the year — better than Christmas. This means everything to me. It's my Ulster Scots, my British heritage and Protestant faith,” he said.

Travelling from Scotland for the event, the Belshill Protestant Girls’ club were adamant that the Northern Irish marches trumped those across the water.

“This is out of this world — absolute magic. It's so relaxed and it's 100 times better than our marches,” they said.

County grand master Tom Haire chaired proceedings, stating that members from three Orange Orders would cross Belfast by bus to pass the Ardoyne by a four o'clock deadline.

The announcement was met with disgruntlement yet acceptance. One man said it was not ideal but hoped it would keep the peace.

“I do think we're giving up our liberty slightly to keep the ones in Ardoyne happy but you're never going to please everyone. If it stops trouble, I'm for it,” he said.

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