The loyal orders have called for the Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie to withdraw remarks she reportedly made at the weekend.
In the Irish News on Monday, November 17, Ms Ritchie is quoted as saying at a GAA function:
“While the loyal orders have some progressive people around who wish to move them forward to a better place, they remain, unlike the GAA sectional and sectarian and deeply divisive in our community.”
Ms Ritchie is quoted as condemning attacks on Orange Halls but saying there is no equivalence between the loyal orders and the GAA.
The loyal orders – The Loyal Orange Institution, The Royal Black Institution, The Independent Orange Institution, The Royal Arch Purple Chapter and the Apprentice Boys of Derry - said:
“If quoted accurately, these remarks are offensive to our members and must be withdrawn immediately. We feel that the timing and occasion of these remarks could in the minds of some people legitimise the attacks on our property.
“The remarks were made on Saturday night, one day after yet another arson attack on an Orange Hall in Tyrone. Ms Ritchie’s remarks cause us grave concern and we feel betrayed by them. Ironically within a few hours of Ms Ritchie expressing her deep concern that people were drawing an equivalence about attacks on Orange Halls and GAA clubhouses, there was yet another attack on the premises of a loyal order in Londonderry.
“The loyal orders are unequivocal in their condemnation of attacks on all halls in the community. It ill behoves the Social Development Minister to make such a difference in the organisations which are suffering these attacks.
“She is also out of step with her party colleague, the Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone who has totally condemned Friday’s attack near Pomeroy and expressed his support directly to members of the loyal orders.
“Ms Ritchie is photographed at the function beside the Republic of Ireland’s Culture Minister Eamon O’Cuiv. He has spoken about the importance of preserving the Orange culture and made a grant of £100,000 to assist in the development of Orange Halls in border counties.
“It should also be remembered that the Republic Ireland’s Government has spent £30M Euro on the Boyne Battlefield site, scene of King William’s victory which is celebrated each year by the loyal orders.
“We ask Ms Ritchie to withdraw these remarks as a matter or urgency.
“The loyal orders want to play their part in moving society forward. Ms Ritchie is clearly not prepared to move forward like so many other people in the community.”