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St Peter’s ready for ʽsplendid’ reconvening of Parliament

St Peter's Church, “Their Majesties Chappell”, will host the 400th anniversary of Bermuda’s Parliament tomorrow (File photograph)

All eyes will be on the East End tomorrow with the historic 400th anniversary of Parliament celebrated in the Town of St George, where it was first held.

St George’ mayor George Dowling called it “a major coup” for the Olde Towne.

He added: “We’re very excited for it – we can’t remember ever having an event like that here, and we’re looking forward to giving free rein to the Royal Bermuda Regiment, who are also celebrating their 55th anniversary. We’ll have the usual pomp and pageantry.”

The island’s parliamentarians will be sworn in for the new legislative session at a ceremony in St Peter’s Church.

It is the site where the Governor in 1620, Nathaniel Butler, summoned a General Assembly, as it was then known.

David Burt, the Premier, has said that the Throne Speech, to be read in King’s Square, will be shorter than usual as the Government lays out “what we can deliver in the legislative year” after the Progressive Labour Party’s landslide victory in the General Election of October 1.

It marks the last Throne Speech for John Rankin, the Governor, who steps down at the end of this month.

Mr Rankin said last night: “It will be a privilege for me to read my final Throne Speech as Governor as we celebrate the 400th anniversary of Bermuda’s House of Assembly.

“The Bermuda legislature is the oldest continuously sitting legislature in the New World and this will be an opportunity to celebrate this island’s system of representative democracy in the knowledge that it will remain strong for future generations.”

Dennis Lister, the Speaker of the House, said social distancing would be in place for the swearing-in, to commence at 9.15am in St Peter’s Church, followed by the Throne Speech “just after 11am” in the square.

MPs will return to the church to conduct remaining business, with the tabling of the Throne Speech and any legislation that might be brought.

Mr Lister added: “Basically, there’s very little difference from what normally takes place. What’s significant is the fact that we’ve moved to St George’s to recognise the anniversary of the first Parliament held there.

“An added feature is that the Youth Parliament is going to participate. They will put questions to the Premier, as though it is Premier’s Question Time.”

Gillian Outerbridge, the secretary of the St Peter’s Church charity, said the church was “tremendously excited to be part of this very significant, very important occasion”.

She added: “We’ve spent a lot of time over the past year bringing the church absolutely, fully up to top-of-the-mark condition.”

St Peter’s has been extensively cleaned and repainted, and Ms Outerbridge said it was “ready to host all Members of Parliament and the Senate as they join us”.

Senators will meet in the Edith Clair Spencer Hall, while MPs are to gather in the church itself.

Ms Outerbridge added: “It’s going to be a splendid affair. We’ve been building up to this with huge support from the Unesco Heritage Fund —with the support of the Corporation [of St George] and the mayor as well.”

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Published November 05, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated November 04, 2020 at 7:04 pm)

St Peter’s ready for ʽsplendid’ reconvening of Parliament

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