MEMBERS of the Orange Order tasked with organising this year’s Twelfth of July demonstration in Rasharkin say they are committed to hosting a lawful, peaceful and dignified parade and are anxious to embrace all the community in the build-up to the event and on the day itself.
And in order to make the event a more family friendly occasion, senior officers of the host district are seeking to abandon the traditional demonstration field at the council-owned Drumbolcan Park which has been described as “not being the most family friendly venue.”
The move which has yet to be ratified, will mean the hundreds of participants and spectators moving to a field on the Church Road which will play host to events for children and adults such as stalls, bouncy castle, face painting, hot and cold food counters as well as providing ample car parking space for disabled badge holders.
In the words of the District Secretary, Mr. Andrew Taylor, the move will enable people to spend the day “without any reproach and without any fear.”
Mr. Taylor admitted at a public meeting at Ballymaconnelly Orange Hall last Wednesday night that the Rasharkin environment would prove challenging, but the message stressed by the host officers is that they want to build tolerance, inclusion and enjoy a day free from trouble.
He told the audience: “Drumbolcan Park is not family friendly. There is a car park but it is too far from the platform area and the officers have given significant consideration to enhancing the demonstration in an inclusive fashion to make the day enjoyable for everyone.”
The Rasharkin District will join with the other districts of Cloughmills, Ballycastle, Ballymoney and Bushmills making up the North Antrim combine on the Twelfth.
Rasharkin District are anxious to avoid any confrontation and that is why they have set out their stall several months before the event.
A series of Big Breakfasts will take place at Rasharkin Presbyterian Church hall and a concert will take place at the same venue on April 12.
An exhibition of the history of the Orange Institution and the district will be held on June 29 and it was emphasised that this will be open to everyone.
Mr. Taylor said: “This is not restricted to the Orange Institution. You build tolerance, understanding and respect in bringing the community with you and moving together on that basis. Everyone is welcome to attend.”
The inclusive theme was stressed time and again at the meeting with the message that the Twelfth celebrates the rich heritage and culture of the Institution expressed through music.
“Undoubtedly, there will be challenges but we want to broaden the Twelfth parade out bringing everyone with us,” Mr. Taylor added.