County Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge led the way at the Northern Ireland (NI) Centenary celebrations in Belfast on Saturday, May 28 as the parade set off from Stormont.

"It was the first time that I've taken part in a parade in Belfast that Fermanagh were right up there," said Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA Tom Elliott, who, dressed in his Orange regalia, marched alongside his County Fermanagh brothers from Stormont to Belfast City Hall.

All districts of County Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge were represented at the parade and a number of County Fermanagh bands participated including Ballinamallard Accordion Band, Aghadrumsee Flute Band and the Inniskilling Fusiliers Flute Band.

The NI Centenary parade was attended by more than 25,000 members of the Orange Order, along with 131 bands and large crowds of onlookers.

Describing the day as "excellent", Tom commented that he was "pleasantly surprised" at the number of people that were there: "The crowds that were both participating and watching. The streets were lined, there were places that it was 10 people deep and the bands got it very tight to squeeze through.

"That was the entire route from Stormont to the City Hall, with the exception of the wee bit in and around the Short Strand, where there wasn't anybody. That was a good thing to be fair for it is a Nationalist area," he said.

Former First Minister Arlene Foster travelled from Fermanagh to watch the parade where she was joined by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the current DUP leader.

Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA Deborah Erskine also attended the NI Centenary celebrations with members of her family.

Speaking to The Impartial Reporter, Deborah commented that it was "wonderful" to see County Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge leading the parade.

"It was an excellent day, I felt like it was a really good atmosphere and I was particularly glad to see Fermanagh and Tyrone districts, who were both leading the parade as well. That was wonderful to see that.

"I think for people the fact that we couldn't properly celebrate the Northern Ireland Centenary because of the Covid restrictions at the time, I think people really did appreciate that we could come together on Saturday and celebrate Northern Ireland's Centenary as such a momentous occasion.

"It was really good and we all really enjoyed the day out, I have to say," she told this newspaper.

Previously planned to mark the NI Centenary in 2021, the celebrations had to be postponed last year due to the pandemic.

Controversially, Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Alliance Party voted down a request by Unionists to have the union flag flying over the Parliament Building.