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100 bands apply to hold Twelfth marches amid fallout of Storey funeral

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TUV leader Jim Allister

TUV leader Jim Allister

Historian Quincey Dougan

Historian Quincey Dougan

Loyalists are demanding the "right" to hold Twelfth celebrations after Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill attended the funeral of Bobby Storey.

By yesterday almost 100 bands had notified the Parades Commission of their intention to hold marches on July 12 and 13.

The notifications stipulate that, in accordance with the health regulations, 30 band members will be present.

As the political fallout from the dispute continues, Quincey Dougan, a historian who specialises in the Orange Order, said the appearance of Sinn Fein leaders at the republican funeral had caused "waves of immediate anger across unionism and Orangeism".

He added, however, that there was a recognition the actions of the party "should not be mimicked".

Mrs O'Neill, who is facing growing calls to step down, insisted the funeral met pandemic guidelines but accepted that a picture taken at a cemetery in which she posed with two men, one of whom had his arm on her shoulder, was a mistake.

The image has been deleted from social media.

The PSNI said it was examining footage from the funeral for alleged breaches of regulations.

Meanwhile, a number of loyalist communities that had previously cancelled Eleventh Night bonfires said they would now proceed with them, including Craigyhill in Larne and Monrush in Cookstown.

TUV leader Jim Allister yesterday appealed to unionists and loyalists to "hold themselves to a higher standard than republicans who showed utter contempt for public health to mark the death of a terrorist godfather".

"At a very early stage in this pandemic the loyal orders made the commendable decision to call off their demonstrations this year," Mr Allister told the Belfast Telegraph.

"When one considers that this has only happened in wartime and during the flu pandemic at the end of the Great War, you can appreciate how seriously this matter was taken."

Mr Allister stressed there was an onus on the bands planning on marking the Twelfth to ensure they strictly follow the guidance because they were "unlikely to have the leeway afforded to Sinn Fein".

His plea for bands to adhere to social distancing was underlined by Mr Dougan, who said Orange lodges, with few exceptions, were fully behind the Grand Lodge of Ireland's position.

"There were immediate waves of anger across unionism and Orangeism upon the appearance of images from the Storey funeral," he added.

"Despite the anger, however, for the most part across the Orange diaspora there is still the recognition that Sinn Fein's disdain for the lives of people in Northern Ireland should not be mimicked.

"Bands of 30 members, properly socially distancing and with clear, unambiguous promotion advising crowds not to gather or follow them, clearly pose a minuscule health risk.

"As such, many bands will now be out on the Twelfth to entertain thousands as they watch from their own houses and gardens."

The Orange Order restated its position that Twelfth parades will not take place this year, stressing that the event could still be marked through its 'Stay at Home' campaign.

It also said it was supportive of bands applying for parades within their communities for the purpose of entertaining people in their gardens and at their front doors.

The PSNI said it would work with partners to ensure "appropriate and proportionate policing support" was in place for any events in line with legislation. Loyalists have accused Sinn Fein of displaying double standards, claiming it has one rule for republicans and another for everyone else.

A Facebook post by loyalists in south Armagh typified the reaction. "It is clear the lockdown is now over as they have no moral authority to tell us what to do anymore regarding Covid-19," the post read.

"Surely we have the right for some Twelfth of July celebrations now?"

Belfast Telegraph