Newbuilidings Orangemen prepare for one of the largest parades in living memory

Fri, 28/09/2012 - 14:01 -- Editor

NEWBUILDINGS Orangemen are today preparing for one of its largest parades in living memory and one of the most significant dates in Unionist history - the Ulster Covenant March in Belfast.

One band - the Pride of Orange and Blue Flute Band - and the Newbuildings Lodge will travel to Belfast early tomorrow morning to take part in the parade which marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant in 1912.

There have been appeals for calm from Belfast politicians and community leaders ahead of the march and the PSNI say they will be working hard to ensure a safe and peaceful day as up to 30,000 marchers will take part in a seven mile parade from Belfast City Centre to Stormont.

Local Orangeman and DUP Councillor Gary Middleton says he is very proud to take part in what he says is an extremely historic day.

"I am looking forward to marching on this historic day, this proud day," said Councillor Middleton. "There is definitely a sense of excitement about it. It was, in essence, the birth day of Northern Ireland. I am confident that it will be a successful and peaceful family day of celebration."

The Newbuildings band and lodge will join up to 30,000 other Orangemen in the Sandy Row area of Belfast tomorrow morning. From there they will march to City Hall, where the Covenant was signed 100 years ago, and from there they will march to Stormont for speeches and a family fun day. There will be Covenant exhibitions and displays and performances from the Ulster Scots Folk Orchestra, the Bright Lights Highland Dancers and the County Antrim Fife and Drum.

The event will also see the biggest policing operation in Belfast city for two decades. There are fears of trouble on the fringes of Saturday's parade - particularly around St Patrick's Church in North Belfast where there are to be nationalist protests - but Gary says he hopes the day will pass off peacefully.

"I would appeal for calm," he said. "I would hope that there are no confrontations. I personally do not feel any tension, I am more concerned with having a day that is successful and can be enjoyed by everyone. I respect the right to protest, that is quite normal. But I hope that people will respect other people's traditions. We are all different."

A feeder parade will march through Newbuildings Village tomorrow at 7.30am.