GRAND MASTER RE-ELECTED BY ORANGE ORDER
Members of the Order’s Grand Lodge met in Eglinton, Co Londonderry, and decided that the Tyrone farmer, 58, should remain at the helm of the Loyal Institution.
The Ardstraw man succeeded Robert Saulters as Grand Master in January 2011.
Mr Stevenson said it was a “great honour” to continue in his role.
“It is deeply humbling, and I am extremely proud, to once again receive the confidence of the membership of the Institution. I very much look forward to fulfilling the role of Grand Master to the best of my ability in the months ahead.
“The past 12 months have undoubtedly been challenging for Orangeism and the traditions we hold dear – however, as we approach another New Year it is abundantly clear the Institution remains an integral part of the cultural fabric of this society.”
In early 2014, work is due to get underway on new Orange interpretative centres in Belfast and Loughgall, Co Armagh.
The Institution is also hopeful ongoing political talks, chaired by former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass, will find a lasting resolution to parade disputes.
Commenting on the Haass process, Mr Stevenson added:
“We prayerfully look forward to the abolition of the discredited Parades Commission, and its replacement with a better regulatory system which is just, fair and equitable. Such an alternative must be based on the principles of non-discrimination, equality, transparency and good administration.”
Following the meeting, Grand Lodge also expressed concern at the recent sentencing of a bandsman who participated in the Ulster Covenant centenary parade in Belfast last year.
“As the organiser of the parade, we feel the sentence imposed was excessively stringent, particularly given the nature of the offence - that of simply playing traditional music,” the Loyal Order’s ruling body said.
“With this in mind, the Institution and its members await with interest the outcome of prosecutions – if indeed there are any – in relation to recent clear breaches of the law by senior Sinn Fein representatives. We trust those found guilty of much more serious crimes in the wider community will be dealt with in an equally rigorous manner.”
“While the Orange Institution always encourages individuals to abide by the law, it is also clear a small number of determinations are being ignored due to the increasingly bizarre and irrelevant decision process of the Parades Commission; the consequences of which are causing much angst within the Orange family.
“It is also important to note that last year’s Ulster Covenant centenary parade was a momentous day for the Loyal Orders and Unionism, with tens of thousands of people lining the streets of Belfast. Despite the huge logistical nature of the parade, it passed off peacefully and virtually without incident. Indeed, PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott referred to the ‘dignified’ nature of the historic event.”
Meanwhile, Rev Alistair Smyth was re-elected as Deputy Grand Master at the Grand Lodge meeting. Drew Nelson also retains his position as Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland.