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Do not put lives at risk by celebrating Twelfth: DUP man

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A small group of Orangemen (social distancing) gathered at the bridge on Drumcree Hill yesterday to mark the 25th Anniversary of the Drumcree Protest. Photo: Justin Kernoghan

A small group of Orangemen (social distancing) gathered at the bridge on Drumcree Hill yesterday to mark the 25th Anniversary of the Drumcree Protest. Photo: Justin Kernoghan

Photopress

A small group of Orangemen (social distancing) gathered at the bridge on Drumcree Hill yesterday to mark the 25th Anniversary of the Drumcree Protest. Photo: Justin Kernoghan

Traditional Twelfth celebrations should not go ahead this year to protect lives and the economy, it has been warned.

Loyalists across Northern Ireland have been urged to respect social distancing guidelines and cancel any planned bonfires, large parades and gatherings over the coming week in a bid to stop a second deadly surge of Covid-19.

Making an impassioned plea on the issue, DUP councillor Dale Pankhurst said while he is an avid supporter of Twelfth celebrations, it is vital that the public abides by coronavirus regulations in the coming days.

"I absolutely love the Twelfth, no one loves it more than me, but the fact is we're dealing with a deadly virus that has no respect for who it infects and who it harms," he said.

"Lives depend on what we do over the next 10 days and I'd appeal to people to stick to guidelines as much as possible."

Mr Pankhurst said he is aware that some members of the loyalist community have been angered by the scenes at Bobby Storey's funeral.

However, he continued: "Sinn Fein may not like it, but they have caused damage that I believe will come out in the next few weeks. I think we will see outbreaks in west Belfast happening in the next couple of weeks and unfortunately there will probably be lives lost.

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Dale Parknurst

Dale Parknurst

Dale Parknurst

"The same thing could happen to loyalist communities if bonfires and parades go ahead and it could be the children on the street up to pensioners if we end up with the 'R' value going through the roof.

"People shouldn't measure themselves by Sinn Fein's stick, although I understand their anger. I wasn't able to hug my grandfather or my parents when my grandmother died six weeks ago.

"When we arrived at the crematorium, we weren't allowed to go with her -the last I saw her was her disappearing over the hill. It was absolutely heartbreaking. There is nothing to stop us having small celebrations, but it is absolutely essential that people follow the guidance of the Orange Order and of the health experts. Lives depend upon it."

The Belfast City councillor's comments come as the police issued a similar plea to the public.

A PSNI spokesman said: "We are still in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and we would urge everyone in our communities to continue to abide by the Health Protection Regulations to ensure their own safety and the safety of others and to prevent further spread of the Covid-19 virus.

"It is vital that everyone follows the advice and direction from the Department of Health and Northern Ireland Executive."

A row erupted last week after senior Sinn Fein members, including the deputy First Minister, attended the funeral of prominent republican Bobby Storey.

While they have been accused of flouting social distancing guidelines, they have denied any wrongdoing.

Belfast Telegraph