THE historic grounds of Stormont will provide the setting for an
Ulster Covenant celebration and family fun day on Saturday, September 29.
Thousands of people are expected to attend the east Belfast event, which will also cater for a major Loyal Order parade to mark the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant.
The parade – organised by the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland – is expected to be one of the largest demonstrations witnessed in Northern Ireland in recent times.
The procession is scheduled to leave from Belfast City Hall - venue for the most famous Covenant signing in 1912 – at 11am before participants parade the six-mile route to the Stormont estate.
While the parade will likely dominate interest on the day, a wide variation of music, children’s entertainments, exhibitions and stalls will also be provided to cater for the large crowds at Stormont from 10am.
Those in attendance will be entertained by notable performers including Lambeg drummers, Grallagh Unionist Flute Band, County Antrim Fife and Drum, Bright Light Highland Dancers, Ulster Scots Folk Orchestra and The Thompson Brothers.
A food village, face painting and balloon modelling, historical memorabilia and Loyal Order displays will also be available to members of the public.
The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland has chosen the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice as its charity partner for the occasion.
From the starting point of the City Hall, the parade will move off and proceed by Donegall Square North, Chichester Street, Victoria Street, Albert Square, Donegall Quay, Queen Elizabeth Bridge, Middlepath Street, Newtownards Road, Upper Newtownards Road, Prince of Wales Avenue (Stormont Estate) to the rally point at Carson’s statue.
The parade will also pass a review stand – holding members of the Loyal Orders who participated in the Ulster Covenant 50th anniversary commemorations in 1962 – at the main gates to Parliament Buildings.
When the entire parade – incorporating up to 200 marching bands from across the Province - has congregated at Stormont, an open air service of thanksgiving will be held.
Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, will also address assembled Loyal Order members and supporters.
It is anticipated that the platform proceedings will commence at 3pm.
Prior to the main procession, the majority of districts representing Belfast County Lodge will form up – as on the annual Twelfth parade – at Carlisle Circus. Other
districts will make their way to the City Hall from both south and east Belfast.
County Grand Lodges representing Antrim, Armagh, City of Londonderry, Londonderry, Down, Fermanagh, Tyrone, Donegal, Cavan, Leitrim and Monaghan will form up at designated points along Sandy Row before parading to the city centre.
Representatives from the Royal Black Institution, Apprentice Boys and Independent Orange Order will also participate in the parade.
Members of the Association of Loyal Orangewomen of Ireland will join the main procession at the Knock traffic lights. However, sisters are encouraged to parade with their own districts, if desired.
A return parade to the city centre – following the religious service - will only involve members of Belfast County Grand Lodge.
The Grand Lodge of Ireland have urged - due to the large numbers in attendance - for all parade participants and spectators to heed the instructions of marshals on the day.
Speaking ahead of the Covenant parade, Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson said: “We expect the event on September 29 to be an occasion to remember and one worthy of the centenary.
“In our view, the Covenant anniversary will be about commemorating our forefathers and their belief in common values enshrined in the Union. We look forward to coming together as a community to do so.”
Dr David Hume, Director of Services for the Orange Order, said: “This will be a major event and a family day for enjoyment and celebration. We also know that city hotels are benefiting from those attending the parade and flights into the Province have also booked up.”
He added: “We have a full programme of activities at Stormont so families of brethren and the general public can enjoy the entertainment and children’s activities prior to the arrival of the parade.”