Seagoe Orange hall was burnt by republicans on 30 August 2007.
This was not an isolated attack. I am clear it was part of a well organised and centrally directed campaign by the republican movement to attack the Orange Institution, its members, its parades and its property.
Since 1969, there have been over 350 arson attacks on Orange halls by the republican movement. What is striking, however, is that very few of these attacks happened during what most people regard as the height of the Troubles – the 1970s and 1980s.
In the late 1980s, for some reason, the republican movement turned their attention to the Orange Order. They started to organise their opposition to our parades and to burn our Orange halls.
Speaking at a Sinn Fein conference in Co Meath in 1995, which was secretly recorded, Gerry Adams said: “Ask any activist in the North, did Drumcree happen by accident, and he will tell you ‘no’. Three years of work on the Ormeau Road, Portadown, and other parts of Fermanagh and Newry, Armagh and Bellaghy, and up in Derry. Three years of work went into creating that situation and fair play to those who put the work in. They are the type of scene changes we need to focus on and develop and exploit.”
Gerry Adams was referring to the start of the republican organised opposition to Orange parades three years previously on the Ormeau Road in 1992.
In the 25 years prior to the Twelfth of July 1992, 39 Orange halls were burnt.
Tellingly, in the 10 years after the Twelfth of July 1992, 192 Orange halls were burnt.
These figures speak for themselves, and show how the republican movement focussed on, developed and exploited the three years of work which Gerry Adams referred to.
Let me make it clear tonight, the burning of Orange halls are hate crimes and an insidious form of sectarianism.
We see these three things:
- the organised opposition to our parades
- the burning of our halls
- and the speech by Gerry Adams
as clear proof that the republican movement continues to focus on, develop and exploit their campaign of hatred against the Orange Order, and what we stand for.
We believe that Martin McGuinness’ vitriolic attack on the Institution last night should not be seen in isolation, but forms part of the republican movement’s continuing vilification of the Orange Order.
When the republican movement declared a ceasefire in 1997, it claimed its war against the British administration was over.
Since that ceasefire, 205 Orange halls have been attacked and our parades consistently opposed.
I have to ask, is the republican movement’s long war against the Orange Order over?
I believe the reason for their long war against the Orange Institution has its roots in the Order’s forthright and determined stand against republicanism and terrorism.
That stand has cost this Institution dearly. Throughout the Troubles, we encouraged our members to join the part-time security forces. Of our 337 members who were murdered by the republican movement, almost 200 served in the security forces.
Poignantly, today marks the 22nd anniversary of the Teebane massacre when two of our brethren, and six other Protestant workmen, were indiscriminately targeted by IRA terrorists.
I have a message for Mr McGuinness tonight.
Your black propaganda campaign has served you well in the past. The Ulster Special Constabulary, the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Defence Regiment all fell victim to it and departed the stage.
But this Institution will not be deterred by the republican movement from doing what is right.
We will continue to oppose their glorification of terrorism, their attempts to re-write history and their constant attacks on our British culture and identity.
The Orange Order in Seagoe and in Portadown District tonight gives the best answer possible to republican attacks.
Seagoe Orange hall has not only been re-built, it has been extended and there has been a four-fold increase in the membership of the lodge in the past six years.
This is testament to the hard work of the Lodge and District officers and I commend you all for your sterling efforts and commitment to the Orange cause.
Your example is a worthy benchmark and provides further evidence that our Institution will continue to survive and thrive, despite the republican movement’s long war against us.