HUNDREDS lined the streets of Ballymena well in advance of one of the biggest and loudest Twelfth parades in the country yesterday.

Dozens of Lambeg drummers and bands led the 30 lodges in the district through the towns famous shopping thoroughfare, to a rousing support from spectators, before making their way to the field in Ballee.

Ballymena, which is the only town in Northern Ireland to hold a Twelfth demonstration every year, was once again awash with colour, as children, parents and grandparents turned out with flags, hats, Union Jack sunglasses, and even the occasional Spanish flag in recognition of the World Cup success.

While it was standing-room only at many of the best vantage points, Maggie Hyde from the Galgorm area of the town was one of the lucky few to have a seat.

�Its like everywhere else, you have to get here early,� the young mother laughed.

For Maggie yesterdays parade held special significance.
�I havent missed going to the parades in Ballymena since I was a child but I didnt think I was going to make it this year,� she told the News Letter.

�Thankfully I am up and about and its just a great relief to have made it here today. There are two of my brothers playing in the band and this is the first Twelfth for my little Sheryl daughter] whose birthday was yesterday.

�Today really is a celebration for the family and thats what this is all about,� added Maggie.

Seven-year-old Paul Chesney who watched the colourful parade pass by the bandstand in the centre of the town was clearly impressed by the Lambeg drummers.

�The drums are the best part so far,� he said. �I am going to learn how to play the Lambegs next year I hope, and walk in the parade.�
David Hanna, from Magherafelt was attending his first parade in Ballymena.

�I normally go to the parades at home, but this last few years I have started travelling around and Ballymena is definitely one of the best so far,� said Mr Hanna.

�Its a great town to watch the bands, you get to see them twice as they come back around, I might come back next year, the atmosphere is great,� he added.

Rev Ian McLean conducted the religious service at the field, before the speech by Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Robert Saulters.

I am still committed to unionist unity Saulters

GRAND Master Robert Saulters says he is still totally committed to the concept of unionist unity.

He said: �I have said that one big strong unionist party was the ideal situation, although I recognised that would be very difficult.
�People would have to forget past differences and work for the maintenance of the Union,� Mr Saulters said at Ballymena.

�I did take some flak for my comments but mostly from people who are no friends of unionists or indeed the Orange Order. In my role as Grand Master, I have travelled the length and breadth of this province it is a role I am proud to have undertaken. In the past few months I have attended functions in every county.

�And what my travels gives me is a unique insight into what members of the Orange Institution actually believe. And make no mistake about it, they are a diverse group of people, with many different opinions.

�But what joins them together is of course the religious and cultural aspects of the Institution and a strong belief in the Union with the rest of the United Kingdom. There are many enemies of the Institution and unionism who would try to dilute that Union but we must not let them get away with it.

�Throughout the banner unfurlings, meetings and openings of new halls there has been one strong message coming through to me and that is unionism needs to think smarter and act as a coherent force against our republican enemies.�

Mr Saulters added: �I have been extremely heartened by the hundreds of people who have backed my call for unionist unity. Our politicians should pay heed to the people who elect them and at the very least work as a co-ordinated unionist bloc.

�Republicans are, of course, very good at their propaganda. Who else could have murdered hundreds and maimed thousands of people over 40 years and somehow managed to have re-written history as if they were the ones who were persecuted?

�The people of Omagh, Enniskillen, Tullyvallen and many others know what it is like to suffer at the hands of republican murderers. They are only too aware of who did the suffering in the Troubles.

�Sinn Fein have been clever about leaking out the view that they want to see unionist unity because it would suit their purposes.

�The truth as usual is very different from what Sinn Fein say. Republicans are extremely frightened of a strong united unionist voice which represents the hundreds of thousands of people who want to remain part of the United Kingdom.

�I have listened to the people who are members of the Orange Order, their families and the people who turn out like today to support them. You have told me in overwhelming numbers that you are proud to be unionist.

�You have told me that you want politicians from all unionist parties to work together for the common good. Today as we commemorate the Battle of the Boyne and the major significance it had on the history of Europe, we must also look to the future and encourage a united front from the people we elect to protect the Union.�

Published date on the 13th of July 2010
Article taken from the The News Letter