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Orange Order

The Orange Order is a Protestant fraternal organisation largely based in the United Kingdom but which also has a worldwide membership. In Northern Ireland it was formally associated with the Ulster Unionist Party until the 12th of March 2005. Many of its members also belong to the Democratic Unionist Party. The Orange Order is the subject of some controversy as it is regarded by many critics as anti-Catholic, and helping to foster sectarianism.


History and origins

The Orange Order was founded in Loughgall in Ireland in 1795 after the so-called "Battle of the Diamond" (a pitched battle between rival guilds based along sectarian lines over trading rights). It was named to commemorate the victory of the Protestant William of Orange over his father-in-law the Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 during the Glorious Revolution. However its establishment was more a reaction to increasing Catholic involvement in the economy of Ulster as the Penal Laws were phased out, in particular the linen trade and the purchase of land, and to the creation of separatist groups of the late eighteenth century such as the United Irishmen (which was dominated by Belfast Protestants). The Orange Order was banned by the British government for a decade in the early nineteenth century because of its involvement in promoting sectarian tension in Ulster.

Glorious Revolution

Some consider William of Orange's victory to have laid the foundation for the evolution of constitutional democracy in what later became the United Kingdom, by strengthening the power of Parliament against the Crown and by finally confining to history the concept of the Divine Right of Kings. Others see it as an unconstitutional coup d'etat that produced centuries of constitutional and legal discrimination against Roman Catholics and Presbyterians, undoing James II's policy of religious tolerance. Penal Laws were introduced in Ireland to encourage people to join the Established Church.

Change in order of succession

The victory of William over James, which led to the events known as the Glorious Revolution was significant both inside and outside the Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland, over which the controversial James II had ruled. Within all three kingdoms it led to a change in the order of succession that replaced the Catholic King James and his Catholic baby son with James's Protestant daughter Mary II and her husband, the Prince of Orange, now King William III. No Catholic would ever be allowed to become monarch and within a short time members of the Royal Family were legally barred from succeeding to the throne if they became Catholic or married a Catholic, by the Act of Settlement 1701.

Increase in power of parliament

Politically, it led to a substantial increase in the power of the English (later British) parliament over the monarchy, since William and Mary owed their succession not to primogeniture or to inheritance (the normal means of inheriting the throne) but to Parliament's decision to declare the throne vacant and offer the throne conditionally to the co-monarchs. The Bill of Rights enshrined the principles of the supremacy of Parliament and of Protestantism over Catholicism.

International effects

Internationally William's victory over James had major political repercussions. It was seen as the first proper victory in battle for the League of Augsburg, the first ever alliance between Catholic & Protestant countries. William's victory was celebrated in Rome by Pope Innocent XI who ordered the singing of Te Deums in the city's major Catholic churches. James's defeat was seen internationally as a defeat for James's major supporter, Europe's then major figure, the King of France.

The effects of the 'Glorious Revolution' on the Orange Order

For the Orange Order, the Glorious Revolution remains central to its appeal. It stresses the importance of the 'Protestant succession' to the throne and of the triumph of Parliament and its Bill of Rights and Act of Settlement as the embodiment of that triumph. It celebrates the victory of William over James every year on 12 July.

The Twelfth

The Twelfth however remains a deeply divisive issue, not least because of allegations of triumphalism and anti-Catholicism against the Orange Order in the conduct of its marches and criticism of its behaviour towards Roman Catholics. Most Orange Order marches in Ireland are uncontroversial; marches in the Republic of Ireland, notably in Rossknowlagh , County Donegal, require minimal policing and attract non-Orange Order members, including Roman Catholics, to watch. However at a few flashpoints, marches have become highly controversial. To Orange Order members, the "right" to march anywhere on the "Queen's highway" is of fundamental importance in upholding the principles of the "Glorious Revolution". To critics, their demand to walk anywhere, even through Catholic areas, is seen as provocative, triumphalist and as asserting the supremacy of Protestants in Ulster. Many of the traditional tunes of the bands that accompany the marching Orangemen have lyrics that are insulting and threatening to Catholics, for example, "The Sash". In addition changing geographic and religious boundaries compound problems. A classic example occurred throughout the 1990s at Garvaghy Road on the outskirts of Portadown (and in the adjacent Obin Street area from the 1800s until 1986 when the march was rerouted). The Orange Order had marched the same route through open countryside for nearly two centuries. In a religiously divided Portadown, Catholics came to reside in large working class housing estates built on fields along the Orange Order marching route. Each side demanded that their community's "rights" get priority. To the Order, that meant upholding their "right" to follow their traditional route along that roadway. To Nationalists and Republicans, that meant the "right" to insist that, having been forced to live on the outskirts of the largely Protestant town, they should not have the anti-Catholic Orange Order parading down the main roadway through the new Catholic area. Some Orange parades in Scotland have also proved contentious, and Scottish police have moved recently to restrict their number.

Ban on Catholics

Roman Catholics are barred from membership of the Orange Order and members of the order face the threat of expulsion for attending any Catholic religious ceremonies. When in 1998 Ulster Unionist Party leader and Northern Ireland First Minister-designate, David Trimble representing Northern Ireland attended the funeral Mass for a child murdered in a Real IRA bombing, there were demands that he be expelled by the Orange Order for attending a "Papist ceremony". Members are forbidden to marry Roman Catholics, as the Roman Catholic Church requires its adherents to make all reasonable efforts to raise all their children in the same religion, regardless of the other parent's faith.

Religion and Culture

The basis of the modern Orange Order is the promotion and propogation of the Reformed faith (ie. Protestantism). As such the Order only accept those who confess a belief in a Protestant faith. Monthly meetings are held in Orange Halls or "Lodges". The Order has a system of "degrees" which new members advance through. These degrees are founded on passages of the bible. It has often been referred to as "Protestant Freemasonry" although many Orangemen refute this allegation since many Churches have difficulties with Masonry. Parades form a large part of the Orange culture. Most Orange Lodges hold an annual Church parade from their Orange Hall to a local Church. The denomination of the Church is quite often rotated. The main parade of the year is the annual "Twelfth" of July celebrations which commemorate the Battle Of The Boyne and the victory of King William Of Orange after whom the Order is named. The various lodges are usually accompanied by various marching bands playing flutes, fifes, accordians, bagpipes and brass instruments. This parade often involves thousands of marchers at each of the many locations and draws crowds of spectators.

Orange Halls on both sides of the border often function as community halls for Protestants. The halls quite often host community groups such as Credit Unions, local marching bands, Ulster-Scots and other cultural groups as well as religious missions and Political Parties such as the Ulster Unionist Party.

In 2005, controversy was generated when the organisers of Cork's St Patrick's Day parade (in the Republic of Ireland) invited representatives of the Orange Order to march in the celebrations, part of the year-long celebration of Cork's position of European Capital of Culture. The Orange Order accepted the invitation and was to parade with their wives and children alongside Chinese, Filipino and African community groups in an event designed to recognise and celebrate cultural diversity. A threatening phone call was made to a person connected to the parade’s organising committee. An anonymous male caller said: "Be careful. We know what you’re planning." Subsequently, after consultation with the Garda Síochána (the Irish police force), the Orange Order grand secretary Drew Nelson said both his organisation and the parade organisers were disappointed that the Order would not be attending the festivities. He added that he welcomed the invitation and hoped the Order would be able to participate in the event next year. A Church of Ireland clergyman, Reverend David Armstrong, spoke out against the invitation. Now based in Carrigaline, near Cork, Reverend Armstrong and his family were forced to leave their home in Limavady by Protestant extremists after he spoke out against the bombing of the local Catholic church. He stated that local Orangemen told him at the time that "the bombing was God's work."

Political links

Until March 2005, the Orange Order was entitled to a voting bloc on the Ulster Unionist Council, the decision-making body of the Ulster Unionist Party. This was the position since 1905, and though the UUP had long mulled over breaking the link, in the end it was the Orange Order that broke away.

There are two related organisations, the Apprentice Boys of Derry (named after Protestant guild apprentices who closed the city gates on a Jacobite army seeking to enter the walled city of Londonderry in 1688 and helped withstand the siege of Derry), whose roots lie in urban working-class Protestant communities, and the Royal Black Preceptory. The latter has been the most willing of the marching groups not to enter "Catholic" areas. Instead they march to the start of any contentious road, the lodge master shake hands with a waiting representative of the local community - usually the Chair of the local Residents Association. There is some dispute as to the RBP's origins, some suggesting that they are descended from the remnants of the Knights of the Order of St John.

The Orange Order in Canada

The Orange Order played an important role in the history of Canada, where it was established in 1830. Most early members were from Ireland, but later many English, Scots, and other Protestant Europeans joined the Order. There are also Mohawk Lodges in Ontario.

It was the chief social institution in Upper Canada (today's southern Ontario) and organized many community and benevolent activities. It also helped Protestant immigrants settle. The Order remained a predominant political force in southern Ontario well into the twentieth century. A notable exception to Orange predominance occurred in London, Ontario, where Catholic and Protestant Irish formed a non-sectarian Irish society in 1877.

The Orange Order played an important role in the crisis over the 1885 trial of Louis Riel for treason. The Canadian prime minister of the day, Sir John A. Macdonald is believed to have refused to commute Riel's death sentence because he calculated that there were more Orange votes to be got by hanging Riel than there were Quebec votes to be got by sparing him. He is famously quoted as saying "Riel must die though every dog in Quebec bark in his favour."

The Orange Order became a central facet of life in Ontario, especially in the business centre of Toronto where many deals and relationships were forged at the lodge. This also served to limit the participations of Catholics, Jews, and women in the workings of Canadian capitalism. The Orange Order faded from its central role in the 1960s and today has completely lost its former importance.

Autonomous Grand Lodges are found in Ireland, Scotland, England, the United States, West Africa, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

External links

Last updated: 05-07-2005 09:34:24
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04