A senior member of the Orange Order has spoken about the importance of the Institution’s halls and buildings, which he says are reflective of a vibrant Orange culture.
Drew Nelson, Grand Secretary, was speaking in Co. Down on Saturday at the re-opening of Donaghadee Orange and Protestant Hall, which was rebuilt after being destroyed by fire two years ago.
“The Orange Institution has provided community facilities such as this one since the late nineteenth century and the importance of this network of halls and related facilities throughout Northern Ireland and the border counties of the Irish Republic cannot be underestimated.
“We are all aware of the important contribution that the Institution and the wider Orange Family makes to society in Northern Ireland – much of this from facilities such as these. This work – raising substantial funds for local and national charities, sponsoring adult learning and community based education, providing venues for youth clubs, community groups, and religious meetings.
“Given the widespread nature of such activity it demonstrates why when halls are damaged, attacked, destroyed or beyond use for periods of time, the community activity of its related hinterland suffers and is curtailed. Ironically, when such tragedies occur it is a testament to the local community which rely on these facilities that the buildings are often returned to their former use as soon as possible.
“The community use of Orange Halls is reflective of how the Orange Institution and the Orange Family are at the heart of the community in Northern Ireland. Due to the terrorist campaign against our country since 1969, many, especially from small urban areas or the rural community have been unwilling to travel to large urban centres to make use of similar public property – in some cases they have felt (rightly or wrongly) that they are not welcome to use such resources.
“As a consequence the Orange Hall has continued to maintain is role as the facility best placed and most appropriate to serve the needs of the Orange Family and the wider community in Northern Ireland.
“Some of the activities include – meetings of the Loyal Orders, religious groups, youth clubs, senior citizens organisations, bands, re-enactment societies, cookery clubs, social economy projects, Ulster-Scots groups, cultural and history societies, mother and toddler meetings, educational centres and the list goes on.
“It is only right that an organisation born from the people should be at the heart of so much vibrant activity. The Institution and its facilities are part of, drivers of and reflective of the vibrant and living cultural heritage that is the Orange family in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. “
As well as the opening of the hall, a new banner for Blue Banner Total Abstinence LOL 781 was unfurled and dedicated.
The dedication ceremony was conducted by Rev. Alistair Smyth, Assistant Grand Master.
October 12, 2008