A speech on Unionist Unity by Bro. Robert Oliver at Killen, Castlederg, Co. Tyrone.
Worshipful Presiding Officer, Rt Wor DCGM, District Officers, WM and Officers of Killen LOL 1272, Reverend Beacom, Brethren, Sisters, Friends one and all.
I attended the unfurling of Bridgetown LOL379 Banner at the start of the month and the Rt Wor Bro Rev Martin Smyth carried out the duty on that evening and I sat wondering what on earth his rates were that I was invited to carry out the same duty this evening.
(We have heard a synopsis of the history of Killen Pride of the Village LOL1272 and the banners associated through the years from Wor Bro Emery whom members past and present proudly carried and walked behind).
Putting my previous, I hope light hearted remarks aside it was with some surprise but great honour when informed by Bro Jim Clarke that it had been agreed by the Brethren of LOL 1272 I should be invited to carry out the unfurling of this new banner here this evening, an invite which I gladly accepted.
I have been privileged to be invited by the WM and Officers of LOL1272 to attend and carry out the installation of officers here over the past few years and tonight is really the icing on the cake.
I referred to LOL379’s unfurling and the attendance of Rt Wor Bro Rev Martin Smyth and I would like to draw your attention to some of what he said on that evening.
We were on the build up to the General Election and he encouraged all to vote, not for any particular Unionist Party but for the Unionist Party of your choice, however the emphasis was to VOTE.
Brethren and friends all I am not intending to politicise this service and event here this evening but we have seen in recent years the manner to which the Labour Government has appeased terrorism and rewarded those responsible. We have seen Unionism split worse than it ever was over our history, we have seen our Civil and Religious rights taken from us by the use of the Parades Commission and the depths some will go to splitting our Institution as we saw some years ago with the fatalities of those young children in Ballymoney.
The Orange Institution I believe is what holds Unionism together and we must at all costs prevent our enemies from breaking that back bone, whereby Unionists still have the opportunity to unite.
I don’t know if we will ever see one Unionist Party in Northern Ireland as history has shown differently but I do believe that a greater understanding, tolerance and working together for the good of this province rather than self preservation would be a start for all our local politicians.
I don’t say that to offend anyone who may be here this evening involved in politics but you know if our elected representatives can sit down and talk with those either in power or who would wish to be in power at Westminster and indeed as is happening here in Northern Ireland sit in Government with terrorists then why can they not sit down and talk to and reach agreement with their fellow Unionist whom many are Orange Brethren for the good of this Provence.
I would have to comment further and ask those Unionists if indeed they were Unionists why they would go out to a Polling Station and deface a ballot paper in places where an agreed selected Unionist could have won back a seat from republicans namely in Fermanagh South Tyrone where it was clearly seen that the defacing of ballot papers permitted Sinn Fein IRA to regain a seat at Westminster where the people of that Constituency will not be represented yet again.
Many say that the Orange Order and its numbers is a dying tradition. I believe they are wrong. I see many of our Orange Halls being renovated and rebuilt thanks to those whose political representatives are telling us we should respect each other’s traditions. New membership forms and young members being initiated into the Institution, reinstatement of past members and not least the portrayal of that stabilisation by the unfurling of many new banners just like this one tonight, the pride in which it and others will be carried and exhibited in our parades in years to come.
Brethren and friends none of this is the sign of a dying tradition, it is however a clear sign in the words of others, ‘we are not going away’, we are not going to be ashamed of our culture and most important we are not ashamed to demonstrate are Civil and Religious Liberties and our Rights of Freedom on which our Institution is formed.
Worshipful District Master, Worshipful Master, Right Worshipful Deputy County Grand Master, Brethren Sisters, Ladies and Gentlemen after all that said it now gives me great pleasure to carry out the task for which I was invited here this evening and that is to unfurl this new banner on behalf of Killen pride of the Village LOL1272 and wish all present and future members of the lodge Gods Richest Blessings, good health, prosperity and every success in the years to come.