The hate at the heart of the Orange Order

Two of Northern Ireland’s most senior politicians face disciplinary action from the Orange Order for attending the funeral mass of Ronan Kerr.

Two of Northern Ireland’s most senior politicians face disciplinary action from the Orange Order for attending the funeral mass of Ronan Kerr, the Catholic Police Service of Northern Ireland constable murdered by dissident republicans back in April, according to the Belfast Telegraph.


Tom Elliot, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, and his colleague Danny Kennedy, regional development minister in the cross-party Northern Ireland executive, are said to have “sold their principles for political expediency” and “should have known better” than attend the funeral of a Catholic, according to a letter of complaint filed by an Orange Lodge from the loyalist heartland of Sandy Row in South Belfast.

The two politicians face a hearing for attending the service and could face expulsion.

A tenth of those expelled from the Orange Order are found ‘guilty’ of attending a Catholic religious service.

Catholics and those related to Catholics are strictly prohibited from joining the order.

The sheer perversity of this issue will leave most people dumbfounded, and rightly so. For two of Northern Ireland’s most senior political leaders to be hauled up before what amounts to a kangaroo court for the ‘crime’ of paying their respects at the funeral of a murdered police officer exposes the tensions that remain at the very heart of Northern Irish society.

The Orange Order has its origins in the political and religious ferment of the late 18th century.

Founded in 1795, the order is said to exist for the “defence of Protestantism” but was usefully employed as a bulwark against the growing threat of the United Irishmen movement which sought to unite “Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter” behind the goal of an independent Irish republic.

The Orange Order played a leading role in the sectarianism that subsequently marred Irish society and following partition in 1921, its influence became immense. Northern Ireland was memorably described by its prime minister, Sir James Craig, as “a Protestant Parliament and Protestant State”.

He also described himself as an:

“Orangeman first and a politician and Member of this Parliament afterwards.”

In the modern era, the order is synonymous with its contentious marches through mainly Catholic communities. Despite trying to soften its image in recent years, the sectarianism at the heart of the organisation refuses to disappear.

Last year its Grand Master, Robert Saulters, described dissident republican terrorists as the “Roman Catholic IRA” and in an echo of Craig, claimed Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service should be renamed the:

“Protestant Prosecution Service.”

The silver lining in today’s unpleasant tale is that the complaint against Elliott and Kennedy arose from just a single Orange lodge out of more than 1,200 across Ireland. That, in itself, represents progress, of sorts.

It is expected the men’s cases will be heard next month; an Orange Order spokesman said:

“The complaint procedure within the Orange Institution is a private matter.”

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.

25 Responses to “The hate at the heart of the Orange Order”

  1. John Band

    In other news, the EDL and KKK aren't great blokes either RT @leftfootfwd: The hate at the heart of the Orange Order: http://t.co/h7kPEr4c

  2. Liz McShane

    The hate at the heart of the Orange Order: http://t.co/s8u2Roqr by Kevin Meagher

  3. Philip Hollington

    RT @leftfootfwd: The hate at the heart of the Orange Order http://t.co/tCXdLvow

  4. Peter. P

    The hate at the heart of the Orange Order: http://t.co/s8u2Roqr by Kevin Meagher

  5. Political Planet

    The hate at the heart of the Orange Order: Two of Northern Ireland’s most senior politicians face disciplinary a… http://t.co/UnQuBgk9

  6. Owen O'Donnell

    The hate at the heart of the Orange Order: http://t.co/s8u2Roqr by Kevin Meagher

  7. wadda

    RT @leftfootfwd: The hate at the heart of the Orange Order http://t.co/IwqOOq5J Shocking stuff in the 21st century.

  8. Tony Burke

    The hate at the heart of the Orange Order: http://t.co/s8u2Roqr by Kevin Meagher

  9. Jo Dooher

    Wow these people are beyond hope! RT @leftfootfwd: The hate at the heart of the Orange Order: http://t.co/SjU8lJfW by Kevin Meagher

  10. Michael Hanley

    In other news, the EDL and KKK aren't great blokes either RT @leftfootfwd: The hate at the heart of the Orange Order: http://t.co/h7kPEr4c

  11. Martin McGrath

    Jobs that might be impossible No.1 (in what may not be a series): PR for the Orange Order http://t.co/V4yGqkpc

  12. ian blease

    The hate at the heart of the Orange Order: http://t.co/s8u2Roqr by Kevin Meagher

  13. DrKMJ

    RT @leftfootfwd: The hate at the heart of the Orange Order: http://t.co/LOGg9Eba by Kevin Meagher #NewsClub

  14. Liz McShane

    RT @leftfootfwd: The hate at the heart of the Orange Order http://t.co/epqXoBDy

  15. robert the crip

    All these pathetic Orders should be banned or any politician who are part of them should be given instructions to leave, if they refuse then simply sacked them

  16. Liz McShane

    This article is spot on.

    I really think Parliament should ban MPs from being members of The Orange Order as its ethos and values are not compatible with being an MP who is elected to represent everyone in their community. Not to mention that it is an anachronistic organisation which really does not have a place in today’s 21st century pluralistic society.

  17. Innocent Bystander

    Banning the Orange Order is a non-starter. Sad to say, it has too many members. There are signs that support is withering. The 12th of July parades do not muster the crowds that they used to. It is divisive, archaic and increasingly irrelevant. The signs are that the general public are beginning to recognise that.

  18. Mr. Sensible

    I just wish certain sections of Northern Irish society could stop living in the past.

  19. Look Left – It’s the economy, Osborne | Left Foot Forward

    […] Left Foot Forward’s Kevin Meagher explained: “The two politicians face a hearing for attending the service and could face […]

  20. JC

    And here’s me believing that if you are a catholic who wants to become a protestant, you will be excommunicated. Maybe a deeper understanding is required.

  21. Kilsally

    A few articulate comments required over here: The hate at the heart of the Orange Order | Left Foot Forward – http://t.co/bfoSjdbi

  22. Alan Day

    Totally inaccurate article. The Orange Order hasn`t even considered the issue and the issue was raised by 1 solitary lodge out of 1200. The democratic nature of the Order as a botttom up organised institution means the issue will be discussed at higher levels. The fact that neither former First Minister David Trimble or the DUP Orangeman that attended the funeral of Roman Catholic PSNI Officer Stephen Caroll also murdered by dissidents. You also fail to mention that the Order sent it`s condolences to the bereaved family at the time of the funeral. The Qualifications of an Orangeman actually mean that an rangeman should not attend religious services of any other faith – Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, Pagan, Mormon or Eastern Orthodox. You also fail to mention that the Evangelical Protestant Society castigated First Minister Peter Robinson for attending and that various evangelical denominations take the exact same stance concerning attendance at religious services of another faith .

    The whole argument surrounds the Qualifications of an Orangeman (with
    the old wording often quoted by the media) which states : “he should
    strenuously oppose the fatal errors and doctrines of the Church of
    Rome and other Non-Reformed faiths, and scrupulously avoid
    countenancing (by his presence or otherwise) any act or ceremony of
    Roman Catholic or other non-Reformed Worship; “. That in effect rules
    out attendance at Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Pagan, Sikh and Mormon
    worship as well as Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic services,
    including funerals. If Dr Kennedy cares to look into denominations
    such as the Baptists, Free Presbyterians or any other evangelical
    denomination or perhaps the Evangelical Protestant Society he will
    find they hold similar views regarding attendance at worship services
    of another faith. The death of former Irish President, Douglas Hyde,
    posed a similar problem (in reverse) where at his State funeral all
    but one member (Dr. Noel Browne) of the largely Roman Catholic
    cabinet, remained outside the Church of Ireland cathedral grounds
    while Hyde’s funeral took place. Indeed most of the reformers (Luther,
    Calvin, Knox) held the exact same views as modern evangelicals. Most
    people including the Orange Order & Ulster politicians recognised that
    in the tragic circumstances it was appropriate not only to offer
    condolences to the bereaved family but to show solidarity with them
    and the wider community in the face of terrorism. The media have
    `puffed up` this story with no context or even comparison to the
    teachings of Protestant denominations. I would urge people to google
    `Qualifications of an Orangeman` and / or visit the sermonaudio.com
    website for further context as it is about theology not bigotry.

  23. Alan Day

    Liz your argument makes no sense as the Orange Order believes the exact same things as evangelical protestant denominations do – Baptists, Brethren, Presbyterian, Pentecostal etc. Indeed surely your argument would then apply to Roman Catholic MP`s who stick to Vatican teaching on the definition of marriage and the sanctity of life (civil partnerhsips, abortion)?

  24. Ulster man

    These men knew the rules when they joined the OO and took their oaths, they where more then entitled to pay their respects at the Wake. They comments on this page are rather rich attacking the OO for living in the past but what about the catholic church? the Catholic Church allows condoms ONLY to prevent STDs However, it still bans it to prevent pregnancy?!?.At the end of the day this is an internal Orange Order issue and not a public one.a

  25. New study of Orange Order exposes bigotry at the core | Left Foot Forward

    […] in September, a local Orange lodge in east Belfast made a complaint following the attendance of Tom Elliot, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and his colleague […]

Leave a Reply