The Orange Order: A Tradition Betrayed

The following is an article from the Daily Ireland about a book launch that I attended on Saturday morning.  I tried to pay as much attention to the speakers as I could, but let’s just say I was not in proper form on that occasion.  Anyway, I will let you read the article to get the background about what the book is about.  My great-grandfather on my mom’s side was an Orangeman, although I really don’t know much about that of the family. My da is from Tullamore, in County Offaly, and it’s from his side of the family that I learned about my Irish roots.

Tom suggested I buy this book for my mother, which I think I will try to do at some point before I leave.  There are some cheeky bastards (you know who you are) who have tried to slag me about my Orange blood–especially about how the Sloans settled in East Orange upon moving to the US.  Many of the Irish martyrs of course were Protestants, though I doubt any were enrolled in the Orange Order.  In any case, the author of the book discussed how the Order was originally created to be the Orange Order of Ireland, and that Irishness was central to their Orange identity (you wouldn’t know it now from the British flags); that there are no anti-Catholic principles in the Order as originally conceived; and that the organization has since been dramatically changed into something that it was never meant to be.

I’m not so sure what to believe–especially as this book release comes on the heels of the recent £100,000 grant to the Orange Order to work on promoting the “cultural” aspects of the organization.  (Keep in mind that many from the republican/nationalist community readily compare Orangies to the Klan in the US.)  I’d like to hear what a local has to say about it after reading the book.  In any case, read on:

‘Orange change needed’


Senior Orangeman says shared future can be built by drawing inspiration from basic tenets of both the 1916 proclamation and Orange tradition – but he believes Orange Order has been corrupted by paramilitaries and political opportunists


By Mick Hall




A former senior Orangeman has claimed that “an island of equals” can be built by drawing inspiration and direction from the fundamental tenets of both the 1916 Proclamation and Orange tradition in Ireland.
The Reverend Brian Kennaway was speaking at a weekend book signing event as part of this year’s Féile an Phobail programme in west Belfast.
The signing symbolically took place on the Falls Road in the Cultúrlann — a converted Presbyterian church and now one of west Belfast’s best-known cultural centres. The building was once home to the Broadway Defenders Orange Lodge.
Mr Kennaway, an Orange Order member for 42 years, resigned his position as convener of the organisation’s education committee in 2000, following the Drumcree marching dispute. He later argued that the order had been take over by paramilitaries, political opportunists and those ignorant of the order’s authentic religious values.
The Presbyterian minister is based in Crumlin, Co Antrim. In May, he published his book The Orange Order: A Tradition Betrayed.
He said the book had not set out to “demonise” the order but had “placed its present position of decline in historical context”.
Addressing a packed hall, Mr Kennaway said the book dealt with organisational problems facing the order. He said addressing these issues would help bring about “a new dispensation within an island of equals” in Ireland.
Among these problems were a lack of leadership and discipline, as well as ignorance among Orange Order members about the “Orange tradition” that had extended to the “workings and behaviour of its institutions”.
Another problem had been the maligning of the order by those outside its ranks, “stating malevolently what the institution stands for”.
Mr Kennaway told the Féile audience that the order stood for equality and civil and religious liberty and that many of its tenets were similar to those found in the 1916 Proclamation.
“The order’s written position of upholding ‘civil and religious liberty for all and special privileges for none’ is not dissimilar to that of the 1916 Proclamation ‘guaranteeing religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens’, and ‘cherishing all of the children of the nation equally’. Both traditions can build an island of equals,” he said.
“We do not have a religious organisation with a political element any more but a political organisation with a religious element,” Mr Kennaway added.
He said that a “fundamental change of Orangeism” had to be initiated, including reversing a process that had “substituted faith with culture”.
“This must be attempted by using ‘spin’. In an age where transparency is demanded, no one wants spin. You cannot change the image of an institution without changing its practice,” he said.
Roy Garland, a former Belfast unionist councillor turned commentator, accompanied Mr Kennaway on stage at the Cultúrlann event.
Mr Garland commended Mr Kennaway’s book as a “sympathetic but critical” appraisal of the Orange institutions.
Emphasising the order’s Irish identity and history, Mr Garland said many of it members had wrongfully assumed that its laws “were unchangeable” and had used much of these to reinforce a “narrowly conservative” agenda based on “fear, siege and conservatism”.
Veteran Belfast republican and community activist Seán “Spike” Murray chaired the Cultúrlann event.
Mr Murray has been involved in negotiations with unionists with regard to the Orange Order’s parade in the Springfield area of west Belfast.


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One response to “The Orange Order: A Tradition Betrayed

  1. Kate,

    Irish Northern Aid has a booth at Art Fair every year. I stopped by this summer and they had an interesting leaflet about the Orange Order. I wish I could find it now but I think I recycled it. Any way here’s what they say on their web site:

    Divide and Conquer

    The English opposed the United Irishmen in several ways. They crushed with great severity the republican insurrection of 1798 in which Ulster Presbyterians, led by men like Henry joy McCracken and Henry Munroe, took up arms for an Irish republic and were joined by Irishmen of all denominations in various parts of the county. They were assisted by a number of French expeditionary forces. British propaganda represented the insurrection as civil war, an attack by Roman Catholics on Protestants and a “popish plot.” Nothing was further from the truth.

    Most effective of all, the British promoted the establishment of the Orange Order in 1795, a sectarian and exclusively Protestant secret society which soon instituted widespread terror and persecution. This was the imperial policy of “divide and conquer” at work. “If I am permitted,” wrote General Knox, commander of the British army in Ulster, “to encourage the Orangemen, I think I shall be able to put down the United Irishmen.” In reply, the English Chief Secretary, Thomas Pelham, approved the plan to “increase the animosity between the Orangemen and the United Irishmen.” Later, Pelham’s successor, Sir Robert Peel, endorsed this view: “I hope they may always be disunited.”

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