16th October, 1995
St. Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan
Roger Bradley (Education Committee, Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland)
David Richardson (Lodge of Research, Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland)
Gordon Lucy (Chairman, Ulster Society)
Dominic Bryan (Researcher, University of Ulster)
Chaired by John Clancy (Meath Peace Group)
Roger Bradley: Introduction
Gordon Lucy: Historical aspects
David Richardson: Religious aspects
Dominick Bryan: Orange parades
Questions and comments
John Clancy welcomed everyone to the first Autumn talk of the Meath Peace Group for 1995, the 18th in the series. On behalf of the Meath Peace Group he thanked the speakers for coming to address the group on the subject of “The Orange Order Today”. He mentioned the fact that there are c. 3,000 marches a year in N.I. and well over two thirds of these are Orange marches. “I think it is very timely also to mention that it is 200 years this year since the founding of the Orange Order in Armagh… it is particularly brought out in this quarter’s issue of History Ireland by Jim Smyth where he discusses the origins of the Orange Order. One of the most telling points he makes is that at the time of the foundation of the Orange Order there was a lot of politicisation of the whole structure of Ireland as a result of the French Revolution, and we must look at the formation of all of those bodies at that time and the Orange Order in the context of a pan-European ferment as a result of the French Revolution. It is important to bear that in mind – though no doubt the longevity of the Orange Order is based much more in the roots of Ulster. ”
ADDRESSES OF SPEAKERS:
1. Roger Bradley (Education Commitee, Grand Orange Lodge): Introductory words
“First of all I’d just like to say that we’re very pleased to be here. Since we were asked to come down we have talked amongst ourselves and have been looking forward to coming. I should stress that we are here in an individual capacity – we’re not authorised to actually represent the voice of Orangeism itself, so I would stress that point. I’ll introduce the speakers that we have – Gordon Lucy is Chairman of the Ulster Society, a society that was formed 10 years ago to promote Ulster/British heritage and culture. He is a member of the University Shield of Refuge which is a reasonably new Orange Lodge, formed just a few years ago, which draws its candidates from the universities of Ireland and also a broader field as well. He is an historian and author and I think I should mention that he has a book coming out next week on the Great Convention of 1892, so that is the commercial over. Anyone interested in Unionism during the Home Rule period I think would find the book interesting. Then we have David Richardson, a former schoolteacher who recently gave up teaching temporarily to do a Ph.D. and he’s taking John Miller Andrews as his subject, who was the second P.M. of N.I.
“David’s a member of the Rising Sons of Killegar which is a Leitrim Lodge so we actually have a representative of Southern Orangeism, perhaps some would say a rare breed. He is a member of the Grand Lodge Education Committee and a member of the Lodge of Research. I’ll just make a few short comments about myself – I work as a public servant and have done so for the past 20 odd years. I’m a member of the Cross of St. Patrick which was formed in 1968 and the primary aim of the Lodge was to promote the heritage and teaching of St. Patrick, so he is a figure who, certainly in my lodge, we hold dear. I’m also a member of the Grand Lodge Education Committee and a member of the Lodge of Research.
“I just want to explain in brief the form that we will speak in – I am going to make some opening remarks in general terms about Orangeism and then Gordon Lucy will follow to speak about the history of Orangeism and how it has evolved up to the present time, and he’ll also speak about the developments of Orangeism and some notable members of the Order.
“David Richardson will speak then on the spiritual and religious aspects of the Orange Order. Usually the stereotyped image you would have of the Order is of a bunch of skinheads with a “blood and thunder” band and that is the image that everyone has of Orangeism – in fact that is very much a minority view. I apologize to Dominic Bryan – I have omitted to say what he will be speaking on. As you know, Dominic is a graduate of Coleraine, University of Ulster. He holds a Masters Degree from Cambridge University and is now currently doing his Ph. D. in anthropology. He will speak about the marching tradition of Orangeism – in fact the perceptions that are held within the group of Orangeism and outside the group – so a sort of insider/outsider view of Orangeism and the actual parading tradition, and after that we’re open for questions.”
Orangeism: “If I could just start by making some general comments about Orangeism. As I’ve said there is a stereotyped image of Orangeism which does give quite a false impression. I’ll just start by explaining the structure. There are actually 3 distinct organisations which are completely separate although linked: the Orange Order itself operates a 2 Degree system – the Degree of Orange and the Degree of Purple.
“When you advance to the Purple Degree, you can advance to the Royal Arch Purple Chapter, which is the second distinct organisation, and it is basically a passport organisation to the Royal Black Institution of which there are 11 Degrees. I’m not going to say anything about the degrees because that is going to be David’s territory, so I don’t want to steal his thunder.
“There are many types of Orange lodges – and again I want to emphasise that we’re not just the very narrow type of organisation which you would see represented on your TV screens when they’re out on parade. There are lodges which are associated with a particular trade or craft and many of these types of lodges have come out of particular industries such as aircraft, shipbuilding, linen etc., and quite often the images on the banners would give you a clue as to the origins of the lodge.
“For instance, a lodge formed from the shipyard would depict shipbuilding, and so forth. Also, lodges have grown out of individual churches, so you would have banners which would depict the church where the lodge was actually founded, and there would be a tradition that members of those lodges would come from these particular churches. There are of course many examples in Belfast of lodges of that nature. If you move outside Belfast, to the country and rural areas, you will find that there are lodges which have a particular tradition with a certain locality. There would be a tradition where farmers and their sons would actually join with a lodge in their district, whereas a lodge such as I am in draws its membership from a very wide geographical area. In fact, we even have members outside of Ireland who belong to my lodge, so you can get quite a varied set of Orange lodges.
“You can also have lodges that would be associated with a military tradition – you would have lodges that were actually formed from the 36th Ulster Division, from the Burma Star, Star of India. In fact, one of the founder members of my lodge actually was a founder member of the Star of the East which was a lodge set in Hong Kong, and as the regiment moved around the world, the lodge moved with it. Also, you find that there are lodges which could be described as having been set up for a particular purpose. I’ve mentioned that both David and myself are members of the Lodge of Research – that’s a lodge that undertakes research, undertakes to give lectures, present papers and to add to the knowledge which is held within Orangeism.
“Again, you would have lodges that would be actually formed to promote the Gospel. Orangeism is set for the defence and promotion of the Reformed Faith – you would have members who would be required to have a Christian testimony – in fact I know lodges where, in order to gain entry to those lodges, you have to actually give your Christian testimony in public. So you can see that there is a very broad representation of Orangeism – it’s not the narrow view that the press present – it’s much wider than that.
Meetings: “I think that’s really all that I want to say, but I’ll say something about the meetings, before I finish. I would imagine, and if I’m wrong you can say I’m wrong, that most people who don’t know very much about Orangeism would say that they meet in secret and they conspire and plot, and they’re anti-Catholic, but really if you want to examine the business of most Orange meetings – some of them can be quite boring – they discuss quite mundane routine matters such as finance, such as how much are we going to raise the dues by, such as if the roof leaks etc. – they have to maintain the hall, so there is a lot of routine business. In addition to that, and I can certainly speak of my own lodge, we invite guests along to speak to us. We have had Dominic, who has actually come to my lodge and addressed the members. We also have debates, we discuss all sorts of religious and political issues and we sometimes refer matters to senior lodges at District level. But really there’s no plotting, there’s no scheming, we are actually not anti-Catholic.
Qualifications of an Orangeman: “I brought with me, and I can leave these for anyone who wants them, the “qualifications of candidates”, and if anybody wants to find out what the qualifications of an Orangeman actually are, I have brought about 20 copies. I think at this point I have said enough. I want to pass over to Gordon who will speak about the development and history, and some notable personages who have been involved in Orangeism.”
2. Gordon Lucy: Historical aspects
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I would like to just echo what Roger has said in terms of our pleasure in being here tonight and accepting your very kind invitation. It’s very very difficult to talk about the history of the Orange Order, especially if you’re dealing with an organisation which has celebrated, or is celebrating, its bicentenary this year. It’s very difficult to summarise the history of 200 years in the amount of time that I have available to me. By its very nature I am being selective – I can’t be other than selective in picking out things to talk about, or themes – but I do hope I’m avoiding being tendentious.
“There are a number of points which Dr. William Smyth, the President of Maynooth, has made during this year about the history of the Orange Order during the last 200 years, and since I suspect that not everyone present was at the Oldbridge Summer School, perhaps it might be worthwhile to focus on those 3 points that he wished to emphasise.
Longevity: “First of all, the sheer longevity of the Orange Order. Very few organisations ever last or exist long enough to celebrate a bicentenary – he suggested the churches, Trinity College Dublin, and some of the public schools, e.g. my own – those are the sort of organisations that tend to exist long enough to celebrate a bicentenary. The Orange Order is one of that small select band of organisations that exist long enough to celebrate a bicentenary.
International character: “Another interesting facet of the Orange Order is its worldwide spread. Roger alluded very briefly to a lodge in Hong Kong – it’s largely spread throughout the English-speaking world to some extent. I’ve suggested elsewhere that many of these lodges are military and their warrants, the authority by which an Orange lodge is set up, seems to have travelled in the knapsacks of individual soldiers. Certainly the origins of the Orange Order in Canada and Australia can be attributed to military lodges. It also exists in the French-speaking territory of Togo where Orange Lodge meetings are conducted in French rather than English.
Social inclusiveness: “The other interesting feature that Dr. Smyth thought of the Orange Order was its social inclusiveness – just the sheer range of people from different social groups that can be members of the Orange Order. I think that’s worth bearing in mind.
“I noticed in some of the papers during the summer that they tended to suggest that the Orange Order was a narrow working-class phenomenon – to some extent that’s true in Belfast but there’s great diversity in the Orange Order. Certainly, outside Belfast and a number of other urban centres, the Orange Order embraces people of all social classes. I think the social inclusiveness of the Orange Order is something that it would be silly to overlook.
Change and evolution: “An organisation which has existed for some 200 years does not remain fixed or static. There has been change and evolution – I don’t know how to address this exactly, but certainly the organisation which sprang into existence in 1795, in response to the attack on Dan Winter’s cottage in September of that year, is not exactly the same sort of organisation that exists in 1995. That, I suppose, is only to state the obvious. The Orange Order over that period of time has evolved – in different periods and different times there are different emphases, e.g. if one was just thinking in terms of the Orange Order at a number of years at the beginning of this century. I remember reading the Northern Whig accounts of the 12th July in the years 1910-1915. In 1910, the 12th July was a social occasion; in 1911-14 it was less of a social occasion – it was becoming more of a political occasion because of the impact of the Third Home Rule Crisis. Again, if you go to 1915, the Orange Order is essentially a religious organisation imploring God’s blessing on the Allied cause during the First World War. So you’ve got that change in that short time span – you’ve got change going on all the time.
Diversity: “The other thing I want to stress is this question of diversity – the image that you see of the Orange Order in Belfast, overwhelmingly a proletarian organisation. Outside Belfast, it is usually much more socially mixed and diverse. Very often when I was reading some of your papers during the summer, one noticed this focus or attention on “skinheads” and people carrying cider bottles and all the rest of it – these weren’t members of the Orange Order at all; they were, if you like, the “hangers-on”, they were there witnessing the thing, they weren’t actually Orangemen. Sometimes there’s confusion as well over some of our bandsmen – the bandsmen aren’t necessarily Orangemen either.
Origins of the Order: “Now this question of what exactly I’m supposed to concentrate on in the time allocated to me. I’m going, just very briefly, to tell you about the origins of the Orange Order.
“As you may know, especially if you’ve read History Ireland, the Orange Order was formed in the late 18th century against a background of sectarian conflict which was particularly intense in Co. Armagh. Now why the political and sectarian rivalry was particularly intense in Co. Armagh is something for historians to haggle over – it’s one of the interesting questions that there are many theories around. I don’t think anybody has come up with the exact explanation. One of the reasons undoubtedly was the fact that N. Armagh was one of the most densely populated areas in Western Europe, so there was, perhaps, this hunger over land.
” There’s also the explanation that a lot of the people at that time in North Armagh were comparably wealthy – they were almost the equivalent of “yuppies”. They had far more money and time on their hands then they knew what was good for them, but you know I don’t know really what the absolute explanation is – that’s for historians to argue over. In terms of the general detail – on 21st September 1795, approximately 400 “Defenders” (a Roman Catholic agrarian society) attacked Dan Winter’s cottage at The Diamond, near Loughgall, and they were confronted by much stiffer resistance than they had anticipated, with the result that the aggressors were repulsed by a dozen determined Protestants, at the cost of one Protestant casualty. Perhaps as many as 50 Defenders may have been killed in the assault, but, as the enemy carried away their dead and wounded, the total must remain uncertain. That evening, the victorious Protestants formed an Orange Society for the defence of Protestant interests and from those very, very humble beginnings sprang the Orange Society.
“Now at different times in its history the Orange Order has had greater importance than at others. In the first two decades of the 19th century I think it had considerable importance and enjoyed the support and interest of social elites. For much of the 19th century it lacked that support altogether. It even voluntarily dissolved – the Grand Lodge of Ireland voluntarily dissolved itself in 1836 – but despite the fact that the Grand Lodge didn’t exist, individual Orange lodges continued to exist, maintaining a very lively underground existence until the Grand Lodge reconstituted itself in 1846 under the leadership of the Earl of Enniskillen. Dolly’s Brae is the episode you are probably familiar with – I’ll not actually bother telling you the story of Dolly’s Brae but I’ll sort of deal to some extent on the “fall-out” from Dolly’s Brae.
Dolly’s Brae: “What happened at Dolly’s Brae was that the Orangemen were essentially ambushed by an agrarian secret society called the “Ribbonmen”, and, although the Orangemen, I think it would be fair to say, won the battle, their opponents contrived to win the propaganda war with the result that in 1850, there was the passage of the Party Processions Act which had the effect of banning Orange parades.
“Now much of the leadership of the Orange Order, at this time, was fairly aristocratic, and, while the aristocratic leadership didn’t exactly welcome the legislation, they were sufficiently cautious, and anxious to remain within the law, not to challenge it. The Order’s fortunes in the 1850s and the 1860s languished to the intense displeasure of the rank and file. Eventually, a minor Co. Down landowner, William Johnston of Ballykilbeg, who shared the frustration of the rank and file Orangemen, came forward to offer alternative leadership. In July 1866 he held an Orange Jamboree, within the law, on his own estate, to celebrate the 12th. In 1867 Johnston decided to challenge the legislation directly by appealing to the working-classes and organising a massive yet peaceful demonstration from Newtownards to Bangor. On its arrival Johnston delivered a speech in which he stated that Orangemen would no longer tolerate the situation whereby it was illegal for them to walk on the 12th, when nationalists could parade in Dublin with complete impunity.
“Contrary to the very shrewd advice of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who I think at that stage was the Earl of Mayo, the Government insisted on prosecuting Johnston and he was sentenced to 2 months in prison in Downpatrick Gaol. Imprisonment had the effect of conferring martyrdom and heroic status upon him, and in the General Election of 1888 Johnston contested the Belfast constituency, which at that time returned 2 Members of Parliament. It was the first election after Disraeli’s “leap in the dark” – huge sections of the working-class had been enfranchised for the first time and Johnston headed the poll and was returned to Parliament. During his stay in Parliament he had the very signal distinction of achieving the object for which he had been elected within the lifetime of a single Parliament. Most people enter, certainly our Parliament, and I’m sure your Parliament also, making all sorts of promises and they actually are able to honour very few of them. For securing the “right to march”, Johnston was to the people of Sandy Row, the Shankill and Ballymacarett, an Orange and Protestant folk hero second only to that other William of “glorious, pious and immortal memory”.
“A legend in his own lifetime, Johnston’s portrait continues to feature prominently on Orange banners, not only in recognition of his successful campaign to secure the repeal of the Party Processions Act, but also his sterling contribution to reviving the Orange Order’s fortunes and boosting its morale.
“That sort of revival that Johnston initiated was really the precursor of another revival which was to occur in the 1880’s. The Orange Order was incidentally initially quite sympathetic to the Home Rule movement – there was a by-election in Monaghan in 1871 and a lot of rather disgruntled Orangemen gave their support to a Home Rule candidate, Isaac Butt. In fact, Butt wasn’t the original preferred candidate – the original preferred candidate was a man called John Madden, but the Roman Catholic hierarchy, in the guise of the Bishop of Clogher, took very considerable exception to these Orangemen, and, I just throw it out as a suggestion, there may have been a possibility of Roman Catholics and Orangemen campaigning in Monaghan in 1871 for the same candidate, but that’s life. Anyway, the point was, the Home Rule movement ceased to be a vehicle for Protestant discontent and annoyance with the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, and instead started embracing a programme which Orangemen found repugnant and, as a consequence, Orange support for Home Rule disappeared, not to say evaporated, although there were one or two Protestants who obviously did continue to have an interest. So Home Rule was obviously a tremendous boost and filip to the Orange movement.
12th July: “Now maybe, without wanting to delve into too much history, I was just going to go forward and make a few remarks and observations about the “Twelfth”. If you feel unhappy about how I’m doing things, please feel free to ask plenty of searching and penetrating questions which I may, or may not, be able to answer afterwards. The 12th of July is the most important date and event in the Orange calendar, and this has been so since the first parades in 1796.
“Over the years fashions have changed – sashes have been replaced by collarettes, flags have been displaced by banners and the fife and drum have been displaced by a wider variety of musical instruments. But even allowing for all this evolution of the Orange Order in some respects, there would be aspects of these parades which I think would be familiar to the first Orangemen. Now how do we interpret the “Twelfth”?
“The historian A.T.Q. Stewart was cited in the Guardian of 5th October 1988 as observing “the BBC is quite wrong when it says with ill-conceived astonishment every 12th July that so many thousand Orangemen celebrated the victory of Protestant over Catholic in 1690. It is not about that at all. It is about the continued survival of Protestants against the unitary Catholic state.” Now I think there’s a lot of merit in that, but I think that the fact that people can debate and argue over that highlights the fact that the Twelfth is an event capable of many diverse interpretations. Some view the 12th July as an expression of triumphalism – a triumphalist and provocative occasion, others view the 12th as an expression of Protestant solidarity – a badge of identity in the face of a perceived threat, and even to participants themselves the 12th July has very many different meanings because the Orange Order embraces so many of the diverse strands of Ulster Protestant society. I suspect perhaps that Roman Catholics… because perhaps Roman Catholicism, though it may not be quite monolithic, it may not be quite homogenous, but if you are Roman Catholic I don’t think it’s necessarily all that easy to understand the complexity, the diversity and the vociferous character of Ulster Protestantism. As I said, I want to go back to this idea that the Twelfth is a multi-faceted event – it combines historical commemoration, political demonstration, religious service and carnival, and for many people involved in the 12th July it’s essentially a family day out for every stratum of Protestant society, it’s an opportunity to meet friends and renew old acquaintances, and an occasion to exchange news and to chat. In rural areas, especially when you have good weather, which fortuitously on the 12th July very often is the case, even in a bad year the 12 July frequently manages to be a good day, it’s really something in the nature of a picnic, a large-scale picnic. So those are just some general observations about the 12th July and I’d like you to take some of them at least seriously.
Marching season: “This question about the “marching season” – there are numerous church parades organised by the Order across the country, the most important of which, I suppose, is Reformation Sunday in October which commemorates the occasion on which Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the Cathedral. There are also a series of “mini-Twelfth” celebrations on the 1st July and the purpose of these is to commemorate the fact that so many Orangemen fell on the first and second days of the Battle of the Somme. The biggest of these demonstrations is in East Belfast. There are also Junior Orange celebrations – they tend to take place on Easter Tuesday, and Bangor very often is the principal venue.
“The marching season is just not confined to the Orange rder. Roger mentioned the fact that there was the Orange, the Arch Purple and the Black. The Black itself has its own calendar.
“The Black organisation does not have the same concentration on one particular date – in different parts of N.I. they celebrate their day on different dates, e.g. Fermanagh and S.W. Ulster, including Cavan, Monaghan and S. Donegal, they tend to commemorate their festivities on the Saturday nearest to the 12th August, and in doing that they’re commemorating the Battle of Newtownbutler. In much of N. Armagh and Co. Down they celebrate Black Day on 13th July in Scarva, and in the rest of N.I. they tend to celebrate their day on the last Saturday in August, hence the phrase “the last Saturday”. Then you have another organisation called the Apprentice Boys which is not, strictly speaking, linked in any way to the Orange or the Black at all and they have 2 principal demonstrations in December when they celebrate the closing of the gates of Londonderry in 1689, and they also celebrate the relief of the city in August. So that’s part of the marching season, that’s part of the rationale for it and I was just going to conclude my remarks by looking at Orangeism in N.I. today, just some general remarks which you can pick up on later.
Role of Orangeism: “Orangeism continues to play a significant role in the life of N.I. Much significance is attached to the fact that all 6 Prime Ministers of N.I., most Cabinet Ministers, most Unionist MPs, have been Orangemen. N.I. has been represented as the “Orange State”, the Cabinet has been viewed as a sub-committee of the Grand Lodge, and Stormont has been described, was described in the past, as a “glorified Orange lodge”. It is true that Sir James Craig once boasted that he “was an Orangeman first and a politician second”, but in practice James Craig and other politicians were politicians first and Orangemen afterwards. The fact that the Government at Stormont on more than one occasion was prepared to ban parades is a very clear illustration of this fact. For many, perhaps most, Orangemen the Order is primarily a religious organisation – something David will address in greater detail. As I’ve already hinted, Protestantism is institutionally divided and fragmented compared to the more unified structure which exists within Roman Catholicism.
“The Orange Order therefore affords Protestants of different denominations the opportunity to meet together to share their common Protestantism and to co-operate.
“In terms of its religious outlook the Orange Order is predominantly evangelical and it tends to be unsympathetic to ecumenism, as conventionally understood. The reason for this is quite simply that Orangemen are anxious to preserve a distinctive and undiluted Protestant and Reformed witness.
Social role: “The Orange Order has a social significance as well, despite the creation of community centres by the Government, which I imagine is a way of trying to minimise the Orange Order’s influence, but historically the Orange Hall has long occupied a central place in the social life of the community. Orange Halls serve as venues for a much wider range of gatherings than simply those that are strictly Orange. They are the venue for dances, concerts, cookery demonstrations, flower shows, meetings of young farmers and youth clubs – a wide range of events and activities take place in Orange Halls.
“I was just going to conclude by suggesting that the Orange Order may be a minority organisation in the sense that not all members of the Protestant community are members of it, but nevertheless it remains the most cohesive force in Protestant society and is an essential expression of the cultural heritage of the Ulster Protestant people. Thank you.”
3. David Richardson: Religious aspects
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’d just like to thank you very much indeed for the invitation here tonight. My own experiences are largely in the Province of Connaught, that’s where my mother comes from, and in actual fact I am a member of the Orange Order in the Province of Connaught, so this is a new province for me. I haven’t any Orange connections with Munster yet but maybe that will come.
Fundamental basis of Orange Order: “I’m not sure what experience many of you will actually have of the Orange Order and I’ve taken the liberty of bringing along a short video with me to give you some visual demonstration, if you like, of a 12th July parade [video shown]
“I’m sure you noticed several things about that video. For a start it wasn’t raining, which sometimes happens on 12th July despite all our protestations, and of course there was a very low police presence, but one thing does stand out perhaps more than most – all the marchers were black men and a very large number of women as well, and you may have noticed some children there at the beginning. Now you might well wonder what that was – that was actually the Grand Orange Lodge of Ghana in W. Africa. What on earth do the Orange men and women of Ghana have to do with the N.I. problem and the situation there? But that is to misunderstand the Orange Order completely.
“The Orange Order is not completely for Ulster, Irish or even European people – the Orange Order is for Protestants. That is the fundamental basis of the Orange Order, and if you don’t understand Protestantism you don’t understand the Orange Order.
“Now to many people Protestantism has a very negative image of protesting against, e.g. one aspect of Protestantism which is often portrayed …in N.I. is the aspect of how the Lord’s Day, Sunday, is observed. Many stories are told against that, many Borough Councils, for example, have strict laws as to how the Lord’s Day, Sabbath, Sunday is observed, and the story is told of what happened in one such borough in the north of Co. Antrim – a pilot was flying over the countryside, his aeroplane developed difficulties and the engine went on fire. He had no other option but to bale out, he got his parachute on, pressed the ejector seat button, flew out of the canopy and down towards earth, and no matter how hard he pulled on the parachute cord nothing happened. He finally landed crash into a haystack and the farmer came running up to see what was the problem. The pilot said “I’ve just had a dreadful experience. I was pulling my parachute cord and nothing happened.” The farmer said, “I’m not surprised, nothing round here opens on a Sunday!”
“Now that’s a story that’s told against us, but very often that’s the perception many people have of Protestantism – it is a negative “you can’t do this”, “you can’t do that”, “we won’t talk to them”, “they’re not for us” – that, as I say, is to misunderstand Protestantism.
What Orange Order stands for: “Protestantism comes from the Latin word “protestatio”, meaning “witness” – a stand for something. I just want to spend a few minutes’ time this evening concentrating on what the Orange Order stands for.
“At its very root Protestantism is based on the Bible and the doctrine of the Reformers from the 16th century onwards, and in fact before that, from the time of Wycliffe, was “sole scripture” – scripture alone. This is the book on which we base our beliefs. We don’t actually worship the Bible itself as some people would hold that we do but we do believe that it is the word of God. Paul, in his 2nd Letter to Timothy, says that “all scripture is God breathed”. It’s the very word of God. These are the standards we hold and this Bible should be the yardstick by which we live our lives and conduct our worship. In fact we’ve got a very good example for that: our Lord Jesus Christ, whenever he was confronted by the Pharisees on a matter of doctrine, very often said, “it is written”. Very often that is the stand Protestants take – “it is written”.
“So I just want to spend some time looking at the fundamental message of the Bible that Protestants uphold. Now I realise that that’s a bit of a gargantuan task, and people have spent hundreds of years defining the essential message of the Bible but that is a certain core that I would like to concentrate on tonight and the aspect that Protestants wish to defend.
Sin: “First of all, from the Bible, we learn that man has a problem. In the early chapters of Genesis we read of God creating man in His own image in the Garden of Eden and then sin entered the world and man turned against God, and the problem that entered into the world was sin. Now we sometimes have a mistaken concept of sin – we think that sins are individual things such as stealing or murder – they are individual specific compartmentalised things in our lives.
“However it is much more widespread than that. Sin is an attitude of mind and can be summed up as love of self – notice the little letter in the middle of sin – “I” – sin is putting “I” in the middle, putting yourself first, and above all putting yourself before God. In Paul’s Letter to the Church at Rome we read these words – “people have become filled with every kind of wickedness, with greed and depravity; they are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice; they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil, they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” These words were written nearly 2 millennia ago yet they do not sum up the state of the world today.
“The human condition is the same now as it was in Paul’s day – all people have fallen short of God’s standard. It’s easy to be judgmental and say “I haven’t killed or murdered, I don’t steal, I’m not included in that, I’m not a sinner”. But the Bible tells us we are.
“The Bible cuts through our self-defence, our excuses, and again slightly later on in Paul’s Letter he says these words (Rom. 3, vv. 22-23): “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” God’s standards can be likened to an examination where the pass mark is 100%; you might get 10%, or you might get 80%, but you still fail. God’s standards are so high that we cannot possibly hope to reach up to them. We are naturally sinful and have turned our backs on God, everything we do, no matter how good it might seem to us, is tainted by that sin, if we do not love God.” Again, Paul says in his Letter: “those controlled by their sinful nature cannot please God” and one hymn often sung at Orange services expresses it this way:
“Not the labour of my hands can fulfill thy laws’ demands, Could my zeal no respite know, could my tears for ever flow, All for sin could not atone. Thou must save and Thou alone.”
Fundamentals – justification by faith: “So that’s the first thing Protestants learn from the Bible – that we have fallen short of God’s standards. But the Bible provides us with the answer, and I’m really working through Paul’s Letter to the Romans to try and draw out the fundamentals of the message that we as Orangemen believe in. In Rom. 5:6-8 we read these words: “At just the right time when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly; very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die, but God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
“We could not reach out to God because all of our actions, everything we do, is tainted by sin, but God reached out to us at a terrible cost to Himself. God is a loving God, but He’s also a holy God and He cannot overlook sin. That sin must be paid for before our relationship with God can be restored and God gave His only son to do just that. God is a holy God and cannot tolerate sin, God is angry with sin. Now our human anger is provoked by the most irrational things, it blazes up and is gone. God’s anger is a just anger…[tape ends]….a crime has been committed and someone has to pay the penalty.
“But the judge’s son, who hasn’t committed any crime, steps forward and takes our place, takes my place. We have earned punishment but Jesus takes our place and takes the punishment for us, and that is the central doctrine that the Orange Order defends – justification – that we can be made just in God’s sight because Jesus Christ died in our place.
Royal Black Institution: “Now Gordon has referred to the Royal Black Institution – I am actually a member of the Royal Black Institution in Co. Cavan, and this is a Royal Black collarette – this is what we wear on demonstrations and parades at various times in the year. Now you’ll see that…there’s a badge there which says “Killeshandra Dist. No. 1 Co. Cavan” and on the other side you’ll see something very simple – a red cross – that is the highest symbol that the R.B.I. has because it reminds us that Jesus died on the cross to save us.
“Protestantism is the theology of the cross and the doctrine that we as Orangemen defend is that everything was done on the Cross for us, we can’t contribute towards that. It is by grace we’ve been saved, and not by works – nothing we’ve done, but by grace… We have been made right with God because Jesus died on that Cross. And we as Orangemen believe that if you repent of your sins and place your faith in Christ, you will be saved. Your sins – they’ve been put behind you – God has wiped the slate clean. We can do nothing. Christ has done all for us.
“It’s been said that the difference between Christianity and other religions is 2 letters. Many other religions say “do this, do that, and you’ll be saved”. Christianity says “Jesus Christ has done it” and that is what we as Orangemen, I reiterate, defend. It’s such a precious truth that we want to stand for it. As the scripture says, “let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence”. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice in our place, we can approach God in prayer directly, we can speak to God directly as our heavenly Father. We believe as Protestants we have that privilege again, not because of anything we’ve done, but because Christ has done it for us. We can approach God in prayer and will spend eternity with Him; we don’t need any other mediator or intercessor because Christ has gone before us. As Paul wrote to Timothy – “there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”. Now that is a very short summary of the essential doctrine of the Protestant Faith – justification by faith – that by faith in Jesus’ death on the cross we can be made right with God, and if Orangeism stands for any one particular doctrine, it is that.
Degrees of Royal Black Institution: “Now very quickly I just want to take a brief look at some of the structures of the degrees, for example, that we undertake. The Royal Black Institution has more degrees than any other – it has 11 degrees, culminating in the Red Cross, as I have said. The Red Cross Degree informs us of Christ’s death on the cross and the fact that paradise is open to those who have a firm belief in Jesus’ blood shed for them. And the various degrees are essentially scripture lessons and they teach such things as charity and other Christian virtues. The degrees focus on the lives of various biblical figures such as Moses, Adam and Eve, Daniel and King David. The best analogy I can find for the degrees – I don’t know if you’ve ever been to York or any of the great English medieval cities where the mystery plays are acted out and where various stories from the Bible are dramatised and the fundamental message of these is brought home – and that’s what degrees essentially are, they’re like mystery plays where biblical stories are brought to life and the doctrines which we as Orangemen believe are brought home to us.
Orange banners: “These lessons are often visually emphasised on Orange banners, especially Black banners. As Roger and Gordon have both [mentioned], Orange banners very often reflect the origins of particular lodges e.g. “The Great Northern True Blues” Lodge in Belfast has a picture of a steam railway engine of the old Great Northern Railway because most of the Lodge members originally came from the railway officers and the railway staff. Other lodges might for example have political figures like Lord Carson or the Earl of Erne. They also have religious figures, and many of the banners depict Protestant martyrs such as Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer, and great Protestant spiritual leaders such as Wesley and Martin Luther. And in the Royal Black Institution what you tend to find is the banners are exclusively religious – they concentrate on biblical figures such as Noah releasing the doves from the Ark, Daniel in the lion’s den, which bring home the spiritual lessons we’ve learned through the degrees.
“I would just like to close what has been a very inadequate survey of some Protestant beliefs by telling you something about my own lodge’s banner. I’m with the Rising Sons of Killegar, Co. Leitrim, as you’ve got on your sheets there, and we’ve got a new banner this year – on one side you’ve the parish church, Killegar parish church, and on the other side we have a picture which to me encapsulates the essence of Protestantism and therefore Orangeism – it’s a picture of a cross, a bleak stone cross, nothing glamorous or romantic, on a rock lashed by waves and to that cross a prone figure is clinging saying “My faith looks up to thee”, clinging to the cross. And I think that’s an ideal summary of what we in the Order stand for. The “true Protestant”, not in name only, is someone who has accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. This is the Protestantism which the Orange Order espouses. There is far more to the Orange Order than wearing a sash and parading on the 12th July. Thank you very much.”
Chair: John Clancy thanked the speakers from the Orange Order and introduced the fourth speaker, Dominic Bryan, a researcher from Q.U.B. and co-author of a recent publication Political Rituals: Loyalist Parades in Portadown published by the University of Ulster.
4. Dominic Bryan: “Parading”
“Thanks very much. I’m going to show a little video from a programme…called “Blood and Belonging” because I think what this will do is perhaps show you images of the 12th Parades with which you are familiar – it will ring true with you. But before I talk, have a look at the images – it’ll take about 5 or 6 minutes….you’ll notice some rather ominous music played all the way through this to give it a particular image…you go to these bonfires, they’re actually very happy-go-lucky cheerful events…
“This is a little talk I gave at a meeting just before the 12th this year which was looking particularly at the Ormeau Road situation. I had individuals from both communities in the audience so you might notice that the little talk treads very carefully. I’d been looking for 4 or 5 years at parades particularly, not specifically about the Orange Order, but predominantly.. [tonight’s talk] is going to be about the Orange Order.
Change: “Parading has a complex history in Ireland. The institutions and political organisations that attempt to control these events have gone through a number of reforms and played a variety of roles at different points in history, and Gordon mentioned some of the changes the Orange Order has been through – the Orange Order is a case in point, it is not, and never has been, an unchanging monolith. Its development into one of the focuses of Protestant identity did not happen immediately and has been due to particular historical circumstances. Over the years it has been used by the British State and in turn has been suppressed by the British State – again Gordon mentioned some of these occasions. It has been an institution of economic and political patronage and also one that has at time served radical class and agrarian causes. It has been used by the aristocracy, by employers, by politicians, and has in turn been abandoned by them. During the Stormont years it was central to the State and patronised by a large majority of the Protestant classes. In recent years it has been going through changes and will, in my view, probably become more politically marginal and not the focus of unionism.
The problem: “[The Orange Order] has provided a sense of community and security but in doing so has at times provided good reasons for Roman Catholics to fear and even despise it. Thus we have a problem – that which has come to be seen by a significant amount of Protestants in the community as central to their identity is seen by many Catholics in the community as symbolic of historical oppression. How can these rival claims be negotiated? Have we any reason for optimism at all? The Orange Order is a disparate organisation and contains a variety of broadly unionist opinions. Its various local lodges, district lodges, county lodges, have their own localised identities and internal politics and you’ve been given a flavour of these identities tonight. Its members vary from being highly religious, almost non-politicial, to those involved fundamentally for political reasons. The supposedly united political line displayed on the streets often hides the internal politics of the Institution and the actions of members. Decisions which appear to outsiders to be directed at them are often more to do with the internal politics of Orangeism and Unionism, and we could discuss it later, but what happened at Drumcree was very much also to do with what was taking place inside unionism, and not only the opposition between the Green and the Orange.
Changes in parades: “The parades have undergone great changes; it is difficult to see them now as a celebration of the State of N.I. as many working-class Protestants feel themselves as alienated from that State as do the Roman Catholics. In recent years the parades have come to contain what are called “blood and thunder” or “kick the Pope” bands, and you saw some images of those on the video, which have no formal connection with the Orange Institution.
“Authority and control over the parades has become more diverse than the Institution would always care to admit – in other words it can find it difficult to control the events even though it wouldn’t always admit that it finds it difficult to do so.
Optimistic message: “To call events traditional as you heard on the video is therefore to hide the many changes which events have been through. He [the video presenter] is making that image there of it having always been like that – I just don’t think that is true. Indeed the past contains an optimistic message – the meaning and role of parades is not set in historical stone – when economic and political structures change so do the political groups that work within them. Now if you want an interesting example of that I set for you perhaps Guy Fawkes Day. My background is one of a Catholic from England, although I wouldn’t practise or be a believer now. I used to stuff this Guy, put him on top of a bonfire and burn him. Now essentially part of what is being done is burning a Catholic, and 100 years ago that would have been the reason, part of the understanding of Guy Fawkes in England, but to a great extent that, if you like, sectarian understanding of that event has completely gone from the English celebration of Guy Fawkes Night, so much so that people like myself never gave a second thought to the fact that we were supposedly burning our own. I offer that as an optimistic sign.
Cultural tradition: “Now we’ve seen one particular image of the “12th” – there is another image which will be found in the Belfast Telegraph, The Newsletter and on BBC and ITV highlights in the evening – that’s of a cultural tradition, of the coming together of a community to take part in one of Europe’s biggest folk festivals. I put it to you that the way rituals work is that they can be both of these things. Both these images can exist at the one time within one ritual. Clearly neither is totally right nor totally wrong.
Mistaken notion of territorialism: “There is one aspect that I want to make quite clear- that is the idea of “territorialism”. You’ll be aware of events such as have taken place in Portadown, on the Ormeau Road in Belfast, and in Derry, and you often have this image of a sort of territorialism, and you hear about “animals marking their territory”. Many journalists present Orangemen as marking their territory like animals, scaring their opponents…. I have recently seen Orangemen described as acting like cats, robins and dinosaurs as well. However the territorialism we are talking about here is not that sort of territorialism. To see it as some sort of primal instinct is to totally misunderstand what takes place.
Parades as an expression of identity: “The parades are a means through which people express their identity and by which people symbolise a political opinion, therefore to block an Orange parade is understood by those in the parade as an attack upon their identity. To ask someone to stop taking part in something that is viewed as central to their tradition, albeit often a recently-invented tradition, is to ask that person to reconsider their way of viewing the world. These parades therefore signify the wider complex political disputes over identities within a territory, not simple animal instincts whereby one male animal seeks to control access to resources and sexual partners. I think it will move the debate on a little bit if we start understanding what we’re talking about when we talk about territorialism.
Conclusion: “Just to conclude, I’ll put forward a few questions. It’s not to say that these things should not be approached critically since, for those outside, the parades act as a reminder of injustices and a barrier to the full expression of their own identity. But there are no easy solutions.
1) “Do we want, yet again, to enhance the ghettoes of Belfast by reinforcing boundaries? Because when we stop people parading in certain areas that is what we’re going to do. At the end of the day, nationalists have suffered more in that sort of situation than have unionists.
2) “Are those claiming the right to march prepared to publicly support the rights of all to express their opinions in a public space, no matter how unpalatable those views? These truly are a test for civil and religious liberties.
3) “Are those marching prepared to show respect for others’ rights by limiting inconveniences to the fewest possible occasions and by showing the utmost respect for neighbouring communities? Whatever the outcome of the Peace Process, it seems absolutely necessary that people’s identities should be respected and where are the deeds on all sides to show that these identities will be respected?
Governments need to face the issue: “Finally, and most importantly, both Governments must seriously address this issue. Both the British and Irish States need to examine some of the sectarianism within their own political structures and constitutions. Further, it is not acceptable for the British Government to leave it to the police to deal with – that’s been the general routine this summer – “it’s a police issue”, and the police have left it till about 10 minutes before the parade is going to take place before they’ve given a decision. To my mind that’s produced the sort of disastrous effects that we’ve had. Unless we face the problem we will yet again have working-class community facing working-class community, policed by predominantly working-class, albeit well-paid, police officers. Confrontation over the parades has in the past led to other forms of communal violence, and unless we face the issues now it may well lead to major communal violence again. Thank you.”
Chair: Thanking the speakers on behalf of the Meath Peace Group, John Clancy pointed to the fact that Orangeism started at a time when Jacobinism was very rampant in Europe – “many would contend that the early years of Orangeism was to do with the maintenance of the concept of monarchy in Europe and they were part of that movement, and it was particularly obviously focussed on the monarchy in England. I think it is interesting that it happened at the same time as the great changes that were coming over Europe. It is also important to realise that 200 years later the kind of issues that were faced then we are facing again, but maybe in a calmer atmosphere, and maybe at a time when both the Protestant and Catholic perspectives can.. prepare more focussed views of one another, in terms of developing respect for the intrinsic values of each ethos… ”
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS (Summary only)
Q.1. Julitta Clancy [Meath Peace Group]: Re Drumcree situation: What happened at Drumcree – what went wrong, was there any dialogue?
Roger Bradley: It was his belief that issues like Drumcree and the Lower Ormeau Road have been politicised. “If you go back to the ’60s you had the Grand Master of the Orange Lodge, Sir George Clarke, actually meeting with the President of the A.O.H. and you had the “Green/Orange Talks” – you had a situation where Orange lodges would have lent banner poles to the A.O.H. for their parade on 15th August – you would have had bandsmen who would have played in each procession. If you compare that situation with the situation which existed in the summer, clearly things have changed. And what has changed is that Orangeism, or the actual parading tradition, has become politicised, whereas before it wasn’t politicised.” He said that he would prefer to talk about the Lower Ormeau Road situation because he knew it better than Drumcree. “If you look at that road you will find that there are virtually no residential houses located on that road – it is a commercial route in that the residential houses are confined to the side streets. You have a situation where people have come in from outside and politicised it.” He referred to allegations of intimidation, where people from the community had allegedly had their cars damaged and homes attacked because they refused to sign a petition. The whole situation had been politicised he said and he could only explain it in that way.
Julitta: “…Can you see at all the problems that people like those in Garvaghy Road might have with Orange parades?”
Gordon: “The Garvaghy Road situation is very similar to the Ormeau Rd. situation, in the sense that the houses, by and large, do not look on to the road, so in order to be annoyed or offended you actually physically have to get out on to the road to be there.” He believed that some of those who spearheaded the protest were members of “Provisional Sinn Fein/IRA” amd many people also believed that leading Provos from E. Tyrone and S. Armagh were actively involved in stirring up the trouble in the Garvaghy Road. “It is significant I think, as well that the local parish priest in Portadown is not involved …in any shape or form in the protest.” He referred to the presence of the Jesuit Order in Portadown. “My understanding and knowledge of the Jesuit Order is that Jesuits are often highly politicised – they sometimes lead the politics of extreme left, sometimes the extreme right. … I regret to make this point, but it seems that in terms of chronology there seems to be a clear correlation between the participation and activities of the Jesuit Order in Portadown and these disturbances over parades…. I notice next month that you are actually having people from Garvaghy Road so I would be very interested if you would like to focus on those points….If the houses do not actually face on to the road, as they do not, and it’s a very short piece of road, it takes approximately 7 minutes to walk down that road, if people have to actively get out there to be upset or annoyed, I just really can’t understand…it’s not even exclusively a nationalist road, it’s the main road from the church into Portadown. You know, people do not actually own the road – and yet these are the same people who are demanding “parity of esteem”.
“Parity of esteem is something they claim obviously exclusively for themselves. They’re people who fly an Irish tricolor – the symbolism of the tricolor is Green, White and Orange – amity between the two traditions Orange and Green. They demand “inclusive talks” and yet they deny Orangemen what they consider to be their rights…” He referred to some of the graffitti on the walls – “I think there should be some focus and some attention on the political attitudes of those people who are orchestrating those protests. Incidentally, I don’t want to tar all the residents of Garvaghy Road with having those views. I’m not accusing them of being necessarily Sinn Fein. I am given to understand some of them are actually intimidated out of their houses to be there, so I think you know it would be interesting to put the people of Garvaghy Road on the spot and find out what they’re about – what their objections are? Certainly we, or some of us at least, would see it to be very politically motivated, and Sinn Fein simply orchestrating or organising confrontations.”
Q. 2. Bill Willis (Wilkinstown, Navan; originally from Co. Down): Referred to the amity between the Hibernians and the Orange Order in the ’60s, and this was borne out by his experiences as a child in Co. Down. “The perception now is that perchance the politicians and various other people seem to have an undue influence on the Orange Order…. are you doing anything to restore the image?” As for Home Rule, his own grandfather was actually Master of an Orange lodge and he was a Home Ruler. He said he had been living in Meath for 46 years and when he goes back he is shattered to see the changes… “I think you must return to that period you referred to, when there was an understanding and mixing.” He mentioned his belief that the Orange Order actually supported the ’98 Rebellion, “and that was one period when we were all together”.
Gordon Lucy: “The politics of late 18th century Ireland are so confused that you actually have cases of entire groups of United Irishmen going over to the Orange Order, but on the whole the Orange Order was not sympathetic to the ’98 Rebellion. Ironically enough the Order wasn’t actually sympathetic to the Act of Union in 1800 either”.
On being asked by David Richardson to expand on what he meant by his reference to the public perception of Orangeism, the questioner replied: “I refer to the triumphalism seen in the summer – Trimble and Paisley running down holding hands … that only harms the Orange Order”.
David: “…Ian Paisley is not a member of the Orange Order and we have no control over him.” As for how Orangemen get on with the other community, he mentioned that in Co. Fermanagh he has never seen any suggestion of trouble. “The community comes out and takes part…but unfortunately that’s not good news … the media cameras go where there is likely to be some friction, and very often the cameras would exacerbate that friction….In the vast majority of parades there is amity and real parity of esteem – it’s just unfortunate that the media don’t choose to present it.”
Roger Bradley said that he had recently attended a function in Royal Avenue, Belfast. There was a “peace parade” organised by members of the fringe unionist parties – and he felt a bit intimidated, although he is a unionist…”there they were with the battalion colours, flags, banners, in semi-paramilitary dress, some of them in all black T-shirts, actually looking quite intimidating.” Those political parties do not have a mandate, he said, and “those are the parties the Government is trying to bring into talks.
“Now that is alien to me… they don’t speak for the majority of unionist and loyalist opinion. They speak for their own paramilitary organisations and most people want nothing to do with them. …The people who are not really being consulted are the people who actually have a mandate.” He felt this experience illustrated the point made “that some parades can be intimidating and …give Orangeism a bad name”, but he stressed that this particular parade was nothing to do with the Orange Order.
Q. 3. [Slane resident]: She said that she would be classed as a “Dissenter” – “a very small minority on this island”. She always feels very frightened when she hears about religion “because it strikes me always again and again that once you make religion of it….it leads to bloodshed for somebody…People who claim to be religious on either side have to look very carefully at what they’re doing because I don’t believe that anybody has the right to say “I love peace and I love Christ and I’ve got the right to march by tradition” and I say this to both sides.” She referred to examples of “unthinkingness” both North and South – “and I would have to say that you are going to have to give a bit, and I’m a bit frightened because I haven’t seen much of it.” Then she asked -“where are the women?”
David: There is a large organisation for women in the Orange Order. “In the Orange Order we give them equal standing… we also have children involved as well… in the rural areas where I come from we have whole families involved in the Orange tradition and it brings people together.”
As for the religious question he said that he was a committed Christian… “I never had any religious hatred or division with people I worked with and I would like to see that applied across Northern Ireland”.
Q. 4. Cllr. Phil Cantwell (Trim UDC): “First of all, you’re very welcome, it’s good to see you coming down…please understand, I come from the Catholic tradition but I’m trying to understand the other side. …I’m very concerned about the Qualifications of an Orangeman.” Phil read the qualifications and referred to one of them which stated that an Orangeman “shall strenuously oppose the fatal errors and doctrines of the Church of Rome, and scrupulously avoid countenancing (by his presence or otherwise) any act of ceremony of Popish worship”. “I find that offensive…but maybe I’m missing something here because I’ve got so much religion here from the gentleman with the Bible”.
David: He said that this was a very sensitive issue. Protestants believed that Jesus Christ was the only mediator between God and man. “Unfortunately, over time, the Roman Catholic Church has drifted away from that”. He pointed out that the Qualifications of an Orangeman also stated that an Orangeman should abstain “from “all uncharitable words, actions or sentiments, towards his Roman Catholic brethren”. “We have no axe to grind with individual Catholics”, he said, ” and it grieves us when sectarian attacks are made, that is no part of our faith… Our quarrel is with the doctrines of the Church …but we seek to disagree in love. ..We believe in speaking the truth, rather than dodging the issues – I think that’s more helpful in the long run.”
Roger stated that there are fundamental differences between Protestantism and Romanism …”they’re there, we’re not going to remove those… but what is written here is consistent with the Westminster Confesssion of Faith of the Presbyterian Church, and the Thirty Nine Articles of the Anglican Church, and that is something that is not going to be removed.”
Q.5. Henry Mount Charles (Slane Castle): Referred to Roger’s remarks about the fringe loyalist parties and Mr Hutchinson’s remarks today that he could see circumstances where people who come from a “new emerging tradition of Protestantism” would be prepared to talk to Sinn Fein, would Mr Bryan comment on what he sees as an evolving situation – “while reference may be made to the size of their democratic base, in changing circumstances might that democratic base expand?”
Dominic: He had two reservations about this. Firstly, these sort of political parties had been around before, in the ’70s, and had withered away. Secondly, “like all politicians, people like Billy Hutchinson, Gary McMichael and David Ervine have become quite polished at talking one language to one group of people and one language to another group of people… it’s very difficult to tie in a lot of the quite remarkable material that the UDA has produced in its time…and at the same time that organisation was taking part in a fairly blatant sectarian murder campaign…. they have had to take a political track … they had to speak a language which was significantly different from the Ulster Unionist Party and the Orange Order… I must say I find some of their speeches very heartening…but there’s nothing historically which suggests to me that they will increase their mandate…. On a side issue, if they can add to the pressure… to separate the Unionist Party from the Orange Order, I think that would be a beneficial movement for almost everybody involved… I think Unionism would begin to be able to look for a broader political base than it’s had so far.”
Henry Mountcharles: Referring to earlier discussion re Qualifications of an Orangeman – “I am a Protestant, a member of the Church of Ireland, and … I am absolutely amazed that in this day and age that this is the type of language that belongs to the general body of Christianity…. I’ve always held that we must extend hands to each other, not this kind of language.. I’m sorry but that is how I feel.”
Gordon: “I think, as members of the Church of Ireland, that we could just agree to differ.”
Q.6. [Presbyterian minister]: As a minister, a Protestant and a Presbyterian, he wished to touch on the Reformation. One of the fundamental things is that “the Church is always under reformation”. He explained that he is “an unashamed ecumenist and I see nothing inconsistent in that..”. On the Scripture issue, he said that you cannot make the distinction that the Protestant churches are churches of the Bible and the Catholic Church is not a church of the Bible. “You cannot say that the Protestant Church is not a church which has a tradition – the Westminster Confession and the Thirty Nine Articles are traditions in the Protestant church but they are not set in concrete, which means they can be changed.” He pointed out that the General Synod of the Presbyterian Church in 1988 clarified its understanding of the Westminster Confession that identifies the Pope as the Anti-Christ, saying that the historical interpretation is not manifestly evident from the Scriptures. “Even a tradition can be reinterpreted… and we, as Protestants, are not free from tradition.. that doesn’t mean that there aren’t differences, that doesn’t mean those differences aren’t worth discussing.” He was not an Irishman, “but it seems to me that many of my brothers and sisters in the North are caught in a time warp back in the 1600s and 1700s, and don’t realise that tradition does change, it is interpretive, it needs to move on.”
David Richardson: He was very glad to be a member of the Church of Ireland. “We say that the Church has erred over time … and it is possible for churches over time to err.” The church is always reforming itself, he said… and in addressing the Reformed Faith we’re not just directing against the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, we’re directing against these strands of Protestantism and evangelical Protestantism which have drifted away from the standards which we see in Scripture. ” Looking at traditions, he said that they must be placed against the Scriptures – “if they don’t measure up, we must discard them… the Orange Order believes in Scripture… I am a true ecumenist as well, I want to see everyone coming in unity round the Gospel, but unity without the Gospel is not true unity…”
Q.7. Walter Kirwan (Dept of An Taoiseach and Forum for Peace and Reconciliation): Re the diversity of the Order: “David emphasised the religious dimension, but obviously going back to Dan Winter’s cottage and so on, there was obviously a political element, the element of protecting… the Ulster British cultural heritage… Which of these strands would our visitors see as the strongest within the Order?” Also, there were references in the Northern papers last week to a lot of dissatisfaction within the Order with respect to the Grand Lodge …”one would guess that the reason these people aren’t happy is prehaps that Martin Smyth not going to Drumcree wasn’t political enough… on the other hand, there are other people… who are proposing that the link will be cut between the Ulster Unionist Party and the Orange Order. What would be the predominant view within the Order as between these two poles…?”
Roger: “I would say that the emphasis within the Orange Order…has to go back on to the evangelical standpoint. That should be the focus of Orangeism, and yes, politics does cloud that issue at times.” Re the link between the Order and the Ulster Unionist Party, “it is probably fair to say that if that link were severed it might be better for Orangeism as well as better for Unionism, so that is an ongoing debate…. One point I would say…there are many Roman Catholics in N.I. who would aspire to be Unionists but cannot actually vote for the Unionist party because it is allied to the Orange Order… I think that is a very powerful argument to weigh in the balance when we come to take a decision as to whether the two bodies should be linked.”
Q. 8. Noel Weatherhead (Tullamore resident): “Does the Orange Order feel they have a responsibility to steward the parades and to control the lunatic fringe that associates with all parades, or do they rely on the RUC to do that for them?”
Roger: “The Orange Order has been concerned about bands and the behaviour of bands… and the Order does take steps to try and control bands… if they step out of line then they are banned from taking part in future parades.” There are also marshals, he said, who work along with the police. “We are also subject to the law in that we have to give notice, we have to have approval… yes, I would agree with you that we do have a responsibility and we do try to carry that out.”
Q. 9. John Keaveney (Kilbride teacher): He would like to be able to bring a group of children from all traditions to march in an Orange parade. What would the obstacles be? There would be girls – could girls march in an Orange parade; there would be Catholics – could Catholics march? Re women, “my impression of Orange parades is that there is a very severe lack of gender balance”.
Roger: “There is the Women’s Orange Institution and there are women’s lodges… In the past they have not paraded along with the men – that is now changing and you do now have women’s lodges coming out with the men to church parades and so forth… that happens more in the country than it does in the city.” Re a group coming up to take part – he said that only Orangemen and women could march, but such a group “would be welcome to watch and partake in the day”.
Questioner: “You consider it as a carnival… yet by that kind of regulation you are excluding a good percentage of the population of your area from participating… I’m trying to get away from the polarisation… for the sake of peace, for the sake of bringing people together… there must be some kind of way of catering for that…”
Roger: “In a sense you’re right in that it is a Protestant society and therefore it is exclusive to that degree… in the same way you have Roman Catholic societies that are exclusive to their own beliefs.”
Questioner: “Could I ask if there is not some way of bringing the two together – it would break an awful lot of the symbol of separateness.”
Roger: Referred to the situation in the ’60s when the Orange Order had talks with the AOH. “I would see that type of trend as being useful and positive .. we need to get back to that situation where we can live with everybody and each respect each other’s viewpoints…”
Gordon: There is no antipathy at all between the Orange Order and the AOH, “but the sort of people who are problems with Orangemen these days are not Hibernians, they tend to be militant republicans, members of Sinn Fein/IRA and their followers.”
Dominic: Re the participation of women in the parades. “I have a sneaking suspicion that people have started to feel that if we had more women in the parades that in fact it would change the nature of the parades.” He pointed out that in the “blood and thunder bands” – generally seen as the most sectarian element, the standards are often carried by women…. women are involved in the parades, they may not always march, but they’re the spectators, they’re the ones doing the dancing, they’re the ones doing a lot of drinking, they’re the ones dancing up and down in Union Jacks, so to that extent they are very much involved.”
Q. 10. [Columban missionary]: “This is not a question, it’s a statement. I just want to say that I’ve been very encouraged listening to the members of the Orange Order tonight, speaking for myself. Because I grew up in Co. Cavan, and as a child the Orange Halls were always pointed out to us and they always aroused a certain amount of fear in me because I was given to understand that something secretive occurred in there, which was a kind of a plot against Catholics, and now I hear the Orangemen tonight coming out and wanting to redeem themselves and say what they’re all about and I find that a very great change and it will certainly take a lot of fear out of me.”
Calling the proceedings to a close, John Clancy thanked the audience for being so attentive. On behalf of the group he thanked the Columban Fathers for the use of the hall and for their consistent generosity and encouragement. Thanking the speakers, he said that, like many others, he had a profound ignorance of the Orange Order – ” all my knowledge was the confrontations during the marching season… But what I have learned this evening .. is that the Orange Order, in a sense, is… an umbrella that holds the diversity of the Protestant ethos and those people who want to celebrate their diversity under that… And I just want to turn it another way…there are the two diversities of the Orange and the Green in the North, and if they can within their ranks have many different kinds of emphases in terms of the Protestant ethos under their umbrella, I think that somewhere within their 200 years they have mechanisms to understand the Catholics and what their concerns are, and in the same way the Catholics have to learn this very important fact, as I see it, this celebration of diversity…”
“What is clear to me, having heard about what happened in the ’50s and what happened in the ’30s, is that the last 25 years of violence… has done untold violence to the trust that grew up at various times during the last 200 years between the Catholic and Protestant or Protestant/Orange ethos. And this is the time now for us to redouble our efforts to put behind us the violence of the last 25 years which has done so much damage, and to build a respect, because in respect of the other’s point of view comes enhancement of your own position in terms of your society and what you stand for.”
©Meath Peace Group. Report compiled and edited by Julitta Clancy. Taped by Anne Nolan
Meath Peace Group contact names 1995: Julitta Clancy, Parsonstown, Batterstown, Co. Meath; Anne Nolan, Gernonstown, Slane; Pauline Ryan, Navan; Philomena Boylan-Stewart, Longwood; Michael Kane, Ardbraccan, Navan; Felicity Cuthbert, Kilcloon