Mass rule is ‘destroying the Orange Order’

Posted By: April 25, 2014

Impartial Reporter ( Fermanagh). Thursday,  April 24,  2014 1

A FERMANAGH Orangeman has spoken of how he has been on the verge of quitting the organisation over its “stupid rule” about members attending Catholic church services.

Pictured at the launch of the audit report which has heightemed debate within the Order are (from left) Norman Johnston, Past County Grand Master; Bryony May, Green Hat and Alex Baird, Chairman of Fermanagh District Council.
The Orangeman made his comments following the publication of an audit by Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge in which 71.6 per cent of people questioned agreed that the rule should change.
“Young men will simply not join a society that has these kinds of rules in place. The report shows clearly how there is a distinct lack of young men in the Order and our leadership wonders why this is. Well, I point the finger of blame at the rule book. These rules are destroying the Order,” he said.
Having lost faith in the organisation’s leadership, the Orangeman contacted The Impartial Reporter to express his frustration at those in charge of the Order, saying: “They need to wise up”.
“I have lost faith in the leadership of the Orange Order, not just locally but in places like Belfast. Like every other organisation the Order needs to modernise and move with the times. Its rule book is a real issue. I must also say that the rest of the world looks upon us very badly. Can the leadership not see the damage they are doing by keeping these rules in place? Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge is too easily influenced by the Belfast lot and seem to be afraid of upsetting them when trying to make decisions,” he said.
The Orangeman, who did not want to be named, said there has been a decline in membership in recent years and added that this “spoke volumes”.
“Society is becoming more integrated all the time, and our relationships with Roman Catholics is the big issue. We need to work on our public relations as we are clearly doing something wrong and have been for some time. In Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge there seems to be growing divisions between some of the old timers and some of the modernisers over going to a Chapel.
“But this is not the middle ages any more. The majority of Fermanagh Orangemen have been to Roman Catholic funerals before and there has never a word about it. In Fermanagh we have great relationships with our neighbours regardless of their religion. The rule needs to change as soon as possible. I go to Catholic weddings and funerals and I feel no less of an Orangeman for it,” he said.
92.8 per cent of people who took part in the survey said they believed Catholics were “suspicious” of the organisation, a point that this Orangeman agreed with.
“I can understand why they do. When you see the way those clowns in Belfast act each marching season then they have every right to feel suspicious. The Order still maintains stupid rules like ‘you cant marry someone if they are not a member of the Protestant faith’. Unfortunately for the Orange Order the vast majority of people in this world are not Protestants, so how on earth they plan to keep numbers up is beyond me,” he said.
The Orangeman said that both he and other members considered quitting the Orange Order when former UUP leader Tom Elliott and his colleague Danny Kennedy were rebuked by the organisation for attending the funeral of murdered Catholic policeman Ronan Kerr in 2011.
“When they got in trouble for going to Constable Kerr’s funeral it annoyed a lot of people. I spoke to many Orangemen who thought about quitting that time, as did I. Tom Elliott did the decent and honourable thing and he was dragged over the coals for it. It was scandalous and if it had happened anywhere else in the world then the Order would have been dismantled for it.
“I am certain that things in the Orange Order need to change in a big way and quickly,” he said.