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This year's Twelfth is best celebrated at home, says Arlene Foster

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First Minister Arlene Foster

First Minister Arlene Foster

First Minister Arlene Foster

First Minister Arlene Foster has joined the Orange Order in calling on those still planning to celebrate the Twelfth to do so safely at home.

Although some individual bands are planning to hold parades today, large demonstrations have been called off because of the risk of Covid-19.

The First Minister acknowledged it would be a "difficult" year but urged all those planning to attend the individual parades to remember social distancing guidelines.

"I think it is important to remember why we have the socially distanced guidelines in place, they're there to protect the community, they are there to protect our families and elderly relatives," Mrs Foster said.

She urged people not to be swayed into ignoring restrictions following the scenes of crowds in Belfast last month at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey.

"I know that people are frustrated when they saw the scenes in west Belfast and they say, 'Hold on, if that can happen there, why can't I do it?', but you have to remember you can't just fall below the standard required of the community just because others do it.

"I am appealing to people to celebrate the Twelfth absolutely, but to do at home and in a way that protects our community.

"Everybody has a responsibility to show leadership and I very much hope that not just DUP members but everyone who is celebrating the Twelfth does so in a way that respects the social responsibility and indeed respects the coronavirus regulations and the guidance."

The message has been backed by Health Minister Robin Swann and Grand Master of the Orange Order, Edward Stevenson.

Instead of the usual mass parades in towns across Northern Ireland, a number of bands have indicated they will stage small parades, aiming to bring the music and colour to the doors of the community.

Although the Orange Order has cancelled its summer parades along with the Royal Black Preceptory and Apprentice Boys of Derry, the Parades Commission has been notified of more than 250 parades over the July 11-13 period.

TUV leader Jim Allister urged those planning to celebrate to do so in a peaceful and dignified manner.

"This Twelfth, for one year, it is necessary to forgo many of the traditional celebrations," he said.

"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 Northern Ireland have made for the public good, any failure to comply with the regulations will be seized on by our opponents and used to excuse the disgraceful scenes at the funeral of Bobby Storey.

"Nothing would please Sinn Fein more than to be able to point at the conduct of loyalists over the next few days."

Belfast Telegraph