COVID-19 forces cancellation of Apprentice Boys of Derry parade - the largest loyalist demonstration in the world

‘Derry Day’- the largest stand-alone loyalist parade in the world - is the latest major event to have fallen foul of the coranavirus pandemic.

Friday, 15th May 2020, 1:17 pm
Graeme Stenhouse who is the new Apprentice Boy's Governor pictured at the annual Lundy's Day Parade in Londonderry which marks the day the City's Gates were closed marking the beginning of the Siege. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 02.12.17

The Apprentice Boys of Derry announced on Friday that its General Committee had taken the decision to cancel the annual celebration of the lifting of the Siege of Derry in 1689.

Last year the ‘Relief of Derry’ demonstration was attended by up to 8,000 Apprentice Boys and 145 bands.

But this year the public health risks associated with the COVID-19 illness have forced the loyal order to cancel.

In a joint statement Governor Graeme Stenhouse and General Secretary Billy Moore said: “It is with great disappointment that the Officers of General Committee have taken the decision to cancel the annual procession to commemorate the Relief of Londonderry, scheduled to take place on Saturday, August 8, 2020.

“Please be assured that we did not come to this decision lightly, however after liaising with key stakeholders and acknowledging the restrictions and advice offered by the First Minister, it became clear that as a responsible organisation we could not continue with our traditional parade during these unprecedented times.

“We understand that this news will be disappointing to many, however as the global COVID-19 pandemic persists, we believe we have an obligation and duty to protect the health and wellbeing of all members, band participants, visitors, traders and citizens.”

The parade - the largest single loyalist demonstration on the planet - is the latest major event in the calender of the Protestant loyal orders to have been cancelled in Ireland due to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The Orange Order has already postponed its annual commemoration of the victory of the Williamites over the Jacobites at the Battle of the Boyne in 1691.

The Apprentice Boys cancelled their own Easter Monday demonstration last month.

“Despite the cancellation of the main procession, we hope to fulfil some of the traditions associated with the commemoration and ensure the 331st Anniversary of the Relief of Londonderry is remembered and recorded for posterity,” said Messrs. Stenhouse and Moore.

“The token observances will be communicated to those assisting with the proceedings, ensuring we remain within Government guidelines and procedures.

“Clubs are instructed to postpone all parades until further notice, however we do request that Branch Club Officers consider placing a floral tribute at their local War Memorial, to remember the sacrifice of the Defenders of Derry during the Great Siege and pay tribute to our Brethren who made the supreme sacrifice in all conflicts.

“Moving forward, the Apprentice Boys Association will continue to take great pride in showcasing our history and culture through the displays and exhibits in the Siege Museum and with the tireless work of the Brethren who manage the outreach vehicle. With your help and assistance, we plan to return next year, the centenary of Northern Ireland, with an exciting Maiden City Festival programme and with the largest and most spectacular celebratory procession that has ever taken place in the city of Londonderry,” the officers concluded.