Page last updated at 10:02 GMT, Wednesday, 8 April 2009 11:02 UK

Shops to open for Twelfth parades

Twelfth parade

Belfast city centre will, for the first time in a generation, open for business during the Twelfth of July parade.

Members of the Orange Order, city centre management and police have agreed that shops will open after the parade passes through the city.

The businesses will then close just before the parade returns.

Cllr William Humphrey said the decision would "enhance the family-friendly atmosphere". The Twelfth parades will take place on Monday 13 July this year.

The parades mark the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne in which William of Orange defeated King James.

Organisers say more than 250,000 people either take part in, or watch, the parade.

Mr Humphrey, who is deputy chairman of Orangefest, the Orange Order initiative to promote the parades as an all-inclusive carnival, said it was a "major development which we believe will be in everyone's interests".

"Last year, in conjunction with the police, there was a clampdown on street drinking and this added to the family friendly atmosphere," he said.

Twelfth parade
Organisers say more than 250,000 people attend the parade

"We will be working closely with the police again this year and we would ask all supporters and visitors to work with us, and the police, to make the Belfast Twelfth a very special and enjoyable day for everyone."

Traditionally, shops would close on the day of the Twelfth parades.

In recent years, businesses have said they want to cash in on the tourist dividend. Visitors are more comfortable travelling to Northern Ireland in July during the 'marching season', compared to ten years ago when few would come because of trouble associated with some controversial Orange parades.

'Robust approach'

Andrew Irvine, of Belfast City Centre Management, said a key element of its marketing campaign is to "leverage the benefit of the extensive offer Belfast has in terms of events and festivals".

"The business community is therefore pleased to step up to the plate and play its part in helping to build Belfast's largest visitor number event into a festival with international appeal," he said.

The police said they will continue to take a "robust approach" to on-street drinking.

District commander for south and east Belfast, Chief Superintendent Brian Maguire, called on everyone attending the parade to exercise responsibility.

"This is the first year the shops are opening and whilst we will plan for this we need people to play their part to make this a successful day for everyone.

"Last year we worked very closely with the Orange Order, and other parade organisers, as well as other partner organisations to tackle on-street and underage drinking. In Belfast alone 3,000 units of alcohol were seized on the Twelfth.

"We will be taking a robust approach again this year - but would appeal to people - think before you drink."

In 2008, Asda and Tesco and the Rushmere centre in Craigavon all kept stores open.

"As negative connotations of this holiday lessen, it is now anticipated that more tourists will be attracted into the major cities and towns of Northern Ireland," said an Asda statement at the time.

"We hope that by remaining open we will also provide a welcome service for these visitors."

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