Orange Order to stick to traditional Belfast route

Orange lodge parading in Belfast
The Orange Order had considered shortening its Belfast parade route next year

The Orange Order has said a Twelfth of July parade in Belfast will stick to its traditional route for 2024.

Earlier this year, the organisation was considering shortening the route and axing a gathering in "the field" at Barnett Demense.

The proposal followed criticism about anti-social behaviour and drinking at the previous year's festivities.

Instead, a "circuitous route" from 2024 was being considered, a leaked internal document revealed in July.

This would have seen the parade begin and end at Carlisle Circus in the north of the city.

The Twelfth of July is an annual commemoration of King William III's victory over King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

It attracts large crowds at events in Belfast and across Northern Ireland.

Orange Order document showing the proposed new route through Belfast
The proposal would see a much shorter route for the parade through Belfast

A review was commissioned in the aftermath of an "abysmal and unacceptable" Twelfth of July in 2022, the Order said in an internal document seen by BBC News NI.

The organisation said the parade was "probably the worst for decades".

The criticism is believed to relate to anti-social behaviour and excessive drinking at Shaftesbury Square.

The review proposed for "the field" part of the Belfast parade at Barnett Demense, where speeches are given before the return leg, to be axed.

It also suggested the route, covering about 10 miles, which passes through Belfast city centre, was to be shortened by six miles.

The current format was "too long" and caused "a significant amount of knock-on consequences", it added.

The proposed route, which would have been introduced next year, would have seen marchers turn back on themselves at Elmwood Avenue, with the parade finishing by 14:00 BST.

BBC News NI understands the route proposal was one of a number of options being examined.

Among them is a proposal by the County Grand Lodge of Belfast that bands wanting to participate in the Belfast Twelfth in 2024 could be asked to sign up to a new "code of management", or be barred from involvement.

The move would see the introduction of an "approved bands register" and tighter regulations regarding flags, emblems, mace poles, style of dress and "quasi-military marching".

The Orange Order has confirmed the traditional parade route will remain, as first reported by ITV, but it has yet to comment on any further proposals.