The County Grand Master of Belfast, Rt. Wor. Bro. Dawson Bailey, made the following speech at the twelfth platform proceedings:
It is with immense pleasure and pride as County Master of Belfast that I add my personal welcome to you all on this our 319th anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne celebrations.
I am particularly pleased to welcome so many of the Orange family from around the globe as they attend the Imperial Orange Council of the World.
I have had the privilege of enjoying the hospitality extended by overseas Orange jurisdictions in Scotland, England and Canada. Therefore it is a great pleasure to return their kindness, as you join the loyal citizens of Northern Ireland’s capital city in celebrating King William’s victory at the Boyne.
There has been much talk about the membership numbers of the institution in recent days. We could debate the reasons for the decline but I believe the real story is that the Orange Institution remains strong and grounded in its foundation principles.
We are a global family of Protestants bound together in a brotherhood to promote the Reformed Faith and defend the civil and religious liberties won for all by the Glorious revolution.
Our influence has neither diminished or increased – the Orange Institution remains the largest organisation committed to the United Kingdom, we are a broad church, both in terms of our politics and our faith. We have all shades of Unionist within our ranks and a wide denominational spread.
Our strength is not in our numbers – which by any standards are still large – but our strength lies in our determination to remain British – our strength comes from the one and only true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I don’t need to remind those present Gideon only required 300 to defeat the enemies of his day.
The Twelfth celebrations attract hundreds of thousands on to the streets to watch and support us, the live television broadcast attracts by far the largest share of an audience on BBC Northern Ireland and over recent years tens of thousands have joined us live on the web. Not bad for an organisation that has been going for over 200 years.
Not bad for an organisation whose obituary has been written by many commentators. Not bad for an organisation who along with the rest of the community have faced 30 years of terrorist attack.
Let me say to those who are trying to write off the Orange Institution. The Twelfth is still the biggest event in the country. The Twelfth is growing. The Orange Order remains committed to the principles of our forefathers and the freedoms won at Derry, Aughrim, Enniskillen and the Boyne. We are not going away you know.
The freedoms we enjoy have been defended down through the generations. Members of the Orange Order have always rallied to the flag or supported those sent in our name to fight for King and Country. As we passed in our resolution today, we remember with pride those who landed on the shores of Normandy 65 years ago this year. Those from our Army, Navy and Air Force and the Allied Forces who established that bridge head on the beaches of Frances so the invasion of Europe could begin. We salute their memory with pride as they fought to defeat Nazism – one of the greatest evils the world has seen. Over recent decades our armed forces have fought terrorism in Kenya, Cyprus and many other countries.
We in the Orange and Unionist community bore the brunt of a terrorist campaign for over 30 years when republicans murdered Protestants simply because they were Protestant or served in the security forces. Sadly many innocent Roman Catholics were also slaughtered in the so called cause for a United Ireland. This Institution saw over 300 of our brethren murdered.
We will never forget their deaths or sacrifice, indeed we will remember all those innocent victims murdered by terrorists. However, one thing we will not take is a lecture from people like Martin McGuinness, who had the cheek to recently accuse the Orange Institution of not contributing to peace in this province.
How dare he. The contribution to peace by this loyal order in Northern Ireland is written large in the headstones and memorial plaques in cemeteries and Orange Halls the length and breadth of Ulster.
The former IRA man may now be a politician but the terror and mayhem his organisation brought to our streets, will not be forgotten by the Unionist community. The Orange Institution will continue to build peace in this part of the United Kingdom but we will keep a watchful eye on Mr McGuinness and his mates to ensure they do not speak with forked tongues.
And speaking of traditional enemies, I would like to wish Parades Commission chairman Roger Poole well as he departs these shores, sadly not before time. The Parades Commission‘s contribution to community relations could be likened to an ashtray on a motorbike – a waste of space.
They are a ship that is holed below the water, their captain has abandoned them and the remaining crew are re-arranging the deckchairs as the water rises around them. May I say to those left on board – nobody is going to throw you a lifeline. Your cruise is nearly over – abandon ship. Let me also fire a warning shot across the bows of the owner – the Secretary of State – the Parades Commission must go. No makeover or charm offensive will make them acceptable to this Institution. May I take this opportunity to thank the First Minister and all our Unionist politicians for their promise and commitment to rid us of the Parades Commission. We look forward to the demise of the Commission in the months ahead.
May I conclude by asking for your ongoing prayers for those who are serving Queen and Country in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many forget we are at war – as we assemble here today, men and women are fighting on the frontline. Risking their lives and sadly some are dying so that you and I and generations yet unborn can live free from the evil of terrorism. May God bless them and keep them safe as we pray for their success.