A County Fermanagh Orange Order member has said “Unionism is giving Sinn Féin a get out of jail free card” by organising parades around July 12.

With an application for a parade through Enniskillen on Monday, July 13 currently with the Parades Commission, the Orange Order member, who preferred not to be named, labelled it a “farce”.

“To parade through Enniskillen is a farce, there are few to no homes, so this will result in drawing crowds in from outside. Bands cannot manage this and they certainly cannot manage social distancing,” he said.

“Typically, an irrational response is being made to something Republicans did in West Belfast.

“Let’s put this in perspective, Unionism is giving Sinn Fein a get out of jail free card by having these parades and they are not going to be widely welcomed in the local community at this time.

“A lot of hard work goes into maintaining good relations in Fermanagh, this is a retrograde step and could also cause pockets of the virus coming back. We have to show we are true and honest about respecting our local communities and the people who live within them.”

He also said that with a large portion of supporters coming from an older demographic, it is inappropriate and as well as seeing another outbreak of the virus will damage the reputation of the Orange Order.

“It’s also no secret that amongst the lodges and many of the band within Fermanagh along with the bulk of supporters the demographic is over 50, these people will be most susceptible to the virus, it is grossly inappropriate to risk their lives or the lives of the wider community. Having bands parade is an irrational and frankly immature response by the Orange family to a very big picture item.

“The only possible outcome will be the Orange community being respected less, a further decline in membership for bands and lodges but even more worrying - an outbreak of the virus could return.”

The Orange Order member added that people forget that the Twelfth is not a band parade but an Orange event and without lodges there is no Twelfth and believes this time could be used by to rebuild numbers in the celebration which have fallen over years.

“Unfortunately being a member of the Orange Institution can at times result is some absurd reactionary statements being made by the leadership which is ill-informed. However, their foresight in cancelling the Twelfth in March showed strong leadership. This has the backing from most of the members and bands, the wider Orange family and the community of Northern Ireland.

“Bands and lodges should be spending time focusing on how to rebuild rather than participating in parades that could result in accentuating the virus.”