19 June 2009

Orange Order Condemn Racist Attacks‏

Speech by Dr. David Hume MBE, Director of Services of the Grand Orange Lodge, at the unveiling of a new banner for Ballykilbeg LOL 1040, 18 June 2009 at Ballykilbeg, County Down.

The Director of Services of the Grand Orange Lodge has condemned intimidation of people based on race, colour or creed.

He said such attacks could never be right, whoever they were directed against Orange Halls or ethnic communities.

Speaking at the dedication of a new banner for Ballykilbeg LOL 1040, Downpatrick, County Down, he said that “The intimidation of people because of their race, colour, creed, or political belief can never be right, whether it is directed against Protestants or members of the Orange Order, or ethnic minorities in Belfast. Such attacks are the work of closed minds and empty brains.

“Because you do not like someone does not give you the right to remove them from the neighbourhood. We as a Protestant people are well aware of the impact of ethnic cleansing, because we suffered it in the Irish Free State in the early 1920s and it resulted in an exodus of tens of thousands of innocent people, and the murder of others,”

The full text of the speech follows;

Thank you for your invitation to be here tonight; I bring you fraternal greetings from my own private lodge Magheramorne LOL 291, in Larne District.

This is an historic occasion for the brethren of LOL 1040 and those who gather to support the lodge. I am delighted to share with you in this historic occasion and the fellowship of our gathering here tonight.

The unfurling and dedication of a new banner is an important milestone in the history of any lodge. This banner portrays two very important figures in the history of our Orange tradition.

William of Orange was the deliverer of civil and religious liberty. He brought relief from tyranny and arbitrary power. We believe that the hand of providence was upon him and that the outworking of his stand for civil and religious liberty secured us as a people.

William Johnston of Ballykilbeg was a dedicated follower of the Prince of Orange and a committed Orangeman within the ranks of this Institution. So much so that he went to prison for Orange principles.

Both men lived in testing times.

Both men had a sincere and dedicated faith that sustained them through those times.

They were outstanding leaders in their generation. William of Orange was fearless in battle, as was witnessed at the Boyne. If William Johnston had not been prepared to challenge an unjust law and go to jail, many ordinary men would have continued to be persecuted and prosecuted for their beliefs. These two men are rightly regarded as pillars of our Institution. They gave direction, purpose and leadership, without which no cause can prevail.

They did so in trying times.

We too in our generation have lived through and are in the midst of testing times.

We have witnessed a terrorist onslaught against democracy in our land, and it has cost the lives of 335 members of our Institution. As far as we are concerned and the majority of people in Northern Ireland are concerned, despite recent attempts to rewrite history and re-evaluate the future, those who murdered in cold blood and with callous disregard can never be viewed as victims. Pope John Paul II said that murder was murder. He was right. Yet years later we find others trying to sell an idea that everyone is a victim. We are asked to accept this erroneous proposition in Northern Ireland, yet it would mean that the 9/11 terrorists would be viewed equally as victims of those they killed on the aeroplanes they flew into the Twin Towers. This proposition is abhorrent to decent people. How can a man who deliberately and in cold blood pulls a trigger or detonates a bomb be a victim? He can’t. Not in our book. Not now, and not ever.

While the war may, it is claimed, be over, the cultural war and the propaganda war continue. Attacks on our Orange halls are part of that wider cultural war. Republicans believe that if they can defeat the Orange Order, they will be well on their way to achieving their goals. We are rightly seeing media attention and civic attention focus on racist attacks this week, but sometimes it is easy to forget that the Orange community has been subject to the same type of attacks over many years. We have had nearly 300 Orange Halls attacked, members intimidated, and, sadly, 335 of our brethren murdered by terrorists.

Republicanism needs to address its responsibility in all of this. Views haven’t changed much from the days of Eamon de Valeria, who said in 1919 “…There are among the Irish minority a few who love their British citizenship and are loath to give it up. To those we have made the fair proposition that it is but a short distance across the channel to the shores of England, and they are at liberty to move over; and that the Irish republic will see that they are recompensed for any material holdings they leave behind”

There, in essence, is the blinkered republican solution to the problem. If there are people you do not like get rid of them however you do it. That is why we are seeing the attacks on our Orange halls; because there are those in the republican community who believe they can remove us from the map by destroying our halls. That is why they object to our parades. They do not want to reach accommodation. They do not want us at all. This is a bit of a contradiction to the idea that the Republic cherishes all her sons and daughters equally, is it not? It nails the lie that a United Ireland is possible, because unless the unity was in the hearts of the people it would not be unity at all. And clearly, there is no coming together of hearts and minds over that issue.

The intimidation of people because of their race, colour, creed, or political belief can never be right, whether it is directed against Protestants in Rasharkin in County Antrim, as is also ongoing, or ethnic minorities in Belfast. Such attacks are the work of closed minds and empty brains. Because you do not like someone does not give you the right to remove them from the neighbourhood. We as a Protestant people are well aware of the impact of ethnic cleansing, because we suffered it in the Irish Free State in the early 1920s and it resulted in an exodus of tens of thousands of innocent people, and the murder of others. This needs to be acknowledged by the Republic, which has developed the maturity and ability to do so, whereas republicanism has not.

Republicanism needs to consider its future after the election results in the Irish Republic. Any lingering hopes Gerry Adams may have had of being President must be slowly slipping away. But worse, the idea of a United Ireland has slipped too, because the south does not want it any more (if it ever really did). Northern Nationalists, if not republicans, need to readjust their outlooks in this new dawn.

We in the unionist community also need to reflect. We see government in disarray. We see a world in crisis. It is sometimes a world which seems to be turned upside down. In Zimbabwe and Iran we see elections that are a farce and will simply not pass for democracy. Yet in Northern Ireland, where democracy exists to allow us to cast our vote, we see a high percentage of the electorate unable to motivate themselves to the polling stations. This apathy is one of the enemies which the unionist community faces. Those unionists who did not go to the polling stations in the European elections effectively did vote – they supported Sinn Fein.

If unionists continue on this path, it will be a dangerous road to travel. Apathy is a serious problem. Not voting is playing into the hands of republicans, who have embraced democracy as the means to an end while still clinging to the armalite or its equivalent throughout history. Continued apathy will ensure that the ballot box has value for Sinn Fein IRA.

And divisions within the unionist family will also serve the same purpose. If unionism continues to divide against itself, we could see a Sinn Fein First Minister after the next election. Is that what we want? It is perhaps what we will deserve if we do not address this matter maturely. The Orange Order has called in the past few years for unity. We want to see a unity, not necessarily of political parties, but certainly a unity of purpose. We need a common direction. As a community we want to see that unity. And we need to see it. Of course there are different political viewpoints and that is reflected in political parties. But our unionist politicians need to ask if they want to be a footnote in the history books, explaining how unionism was defeated. We need common foundations, and an agreement over the direction in which we are to travel. We probably need agreement over certain electoral areas and seats, unless we are content to lose seats and political influence in crucial areas of the country.

This is increasingly a pluralist society. It is a society which is changing. It is a society which presents many challenges. This week we have witnessed some of those challenges. How do we welcome the stranger in our land? Do we welcome them? Do we want them? As an Institution which stands for civil and religious liberty for all, there should be no doubt for us that we say no to racist mindsets and intimidation. Yet our society is full of contradictions. Our government has had to be forced to extend rights to the Ghurkhas, who have served us faithfully in the ranks of our army over generations. Our government cannot provide adequate policing to protect ethnic minorities under attack and the Chief Constable wants to cut the police reserve so there are less police on the ground. That, does not only count for ethnic minorities, of course; in Rasharkin in County Antrim some people are engaged in a determined campaign of ethnic cleansing against the small Protestant and Orange community, and the PSNI is regarding it as a sectarian problem which is not primarily a policing issue. If this same attitude is being taken in South Belfast then it is no wonder there are problems in our society.

Thankfully, the vast bulk of people in Northern Ireland are decent people. The people who attack property identified as belonging to one side or another should ponder that they represent no one other than a destructive fringe. The solution for Northern Ireland is that we must all live together and respect each other for what we are. All that we ask is to be respected and we can extend no less privilege to others. We believe that our health and future is best assured within the United Kingdom, that is why we are unionists. Being British is not about being one particular creed or race. It is about people of many backgrounds living and working together. The Orange Order has a role to play in standing up for being British. The danger has been that this has been left to those on the fringes and that now we see they are coming in from the fringes because people are fed up with political correctness and there is a backlash against the established political parties. It is difficult for a government to talk of being proud to be British when officials in councils prevent people from flying the Union Flag or St. George’s Flag because they think it is not politically correct. Those are the people who are handing victories to the BNP in England.
The Orange Order has no colour or race bar. The Orange Order is proud for all the right reasons of what and who we are.

The Orange Institution is the common thread in the fabric of the Protestant community. It unites people from all backgrounds. It is national and international. It stands firm for principles which remain standing in our modern world. The banners we carry are banners of freedom.

May your Ballykilbeg banner, which links you to the past, be honoured in the present and carried long into the future. May your journey as a lodge be marked by many milestones such as this…