"Centenaries are an occasion when we can look back and celebrate all that has been achieved by the hard work of many people.
In the Orange Institution, history and tradition plays a significant part in our activities. We are an organisation with a long and proud history that actually stretches back over two centuries.
Although we are first and foremost a religious and cultural organisation, it would be wrong to assume that we do not take an interest in politics.
One of the many aspirations shared by Orangemen is to maintain the union with the rest of the United Kingdom.
The union is bigger than the Orange Order or any single political party and I was very pleased when the Grand Master, Robert Saulters, last week spoke out on the subject.
The Grand Master said he believed there should be one big unionist party which was big enough and modern enough to allow people with conflicting opinions to work together for the common purpose of maintaining the union. He said there must be a drive towards unionist unity or at the very least better joined up thinking between unionists.
I agree totally with his comments.
They were timely and most important of all, they were a true reflection of what Orangemen the length and breadth of this country are telling us.
When people like the Grand Master and I call for unionist unity, we are not making party political points. In fact the opposite is true.
We are saying that the one sure way to maintain the union is for unionists to forge a better working relationship and ultimately they can create one big powerful party that will have strength and a shared vision.
As leaders of the Orange Institution, we would be failing our membership if we did not flag up what Orangemen are telling us.
I have been heartened by the strong support for the comments made by the Grand Master.
Of course, there will be those who disagree – and they are entitled to that position – but they are not saying what I hear on the ground.
The Orange Order has a responsibility to articulate the views of its members and it is then up to the politicians to work out the best way forward."