Thousands will descend on the seaside resort of Rossnowlagh next weekend for the annual ‘Twelfth’ parade, which will be held on Saturday, July 11, two days before the bank-holiday marches in the North.
At last year’s event, the Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, invited President Higgins.
A spokesman for the local Ballintra Orange Lodge confirmed yesterday that President Higgins could not attend as his diary is full.
“Unfortunately, his diary did not allow him to come. In one way it is a relief, while in another way it is disappointing,” said Norman Henry of the Orange Order.
Asked to explain why the President’s non-attendance was a relief, Mr Henry said Rossnowlagh is renowned for its laid-back family atmosphere and low-key security presence. “If he was coming, we would have to increase security, and we like to have it as relaxed as we can,” he said.
A spokesman for the President’s press office said his weekly diary is released each Friday with his engagements for the upcoming week. “Otherwise we do not comment in advance on specific events,” the spokesman said.
Mr Stevenson said that, at last year’s parade, the order was prompted by the “momentous State visit” by Queen Elizabeth to Ireland in 2011.
“It is against this backdrop, and from this platform today, that I publicly invite the President of the Republic of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, to join us and witness for himself next year the colour and spectacle of the only Twelfth demonstration in this jurisdiction. You will be made most welcome here in Rossnowlagh, President Higgins, and I trust you will accept the genuine invitation in the spirit of good will and neighbourliness in which it is intended.”
Fifty lodges, from Donegal, Cavan, Leitrim, and Monaghan, as well as visiting Orangemen, joined by about 30 bands, will take part in next week’s parade.
The Twelfth in Donegal has been held in Rossnowlagh since the 1900s and has taken place there every year since 1978. It is traditional to hold the parade on the Saturday before the main parades.