The Orange Order has announced that this year's annual 12th of July parades have been cancelled due to Covid-19.

Grand Master Edward Stevenson said the decision was taken in light of the ongoing pandemic and follows consultation with the Grand Masters of England and Scotland, local county masters and senior officers.

"It is with regret that I must cancel the 2020 Boyne Anniversary Parades," he said.

"In the face of the growing crisis surrounding coronavirus it is in the best interests of our members, their families and the wider community that this decision has been made.

"In the current circumstances, the gathering of hundreds of thousands of Orangemen and women, together with their accompanying bands and spectators, would not be responsible.

"I appreciate that our culture and traditions are very much a way of life for the Orange family, however in light of the current situation, we must prioritise the safety of not only our members, but of the entire community."

Orange parades had been due to take place at 17 venues across Northern Ireland and also in Rossnowlagh, Co Donegal.

Mr Stevenson added: "The Orange Family has already lost members to this terrible virus whilst others are currently in hospital. I would encourage you to pray for all those who have been or will be affected by the coronavirus and for those in our health service and other essential jobs who are working so hard to fight it.

"The cancellation of the 12th of July parades is not without precedent. Parades were not held for a time during the First and Second World Wars or during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918.

"We will look at alternative ways the 12th of July can be appropriately marked in 2020, following the guidelines and restrictions applicable at that time."