Ancient Order of Hibernians

Ancient Order of Hibernians

Triennial Convention 28th September 2002

Presentation By Rev Brian Kennaway

INTRODUCTION

Mr President may I take this opportunity to say how pleased, and honoured I am, to accept your kind invitation to address you this afternoon.  Like Prime Minister Tony Blair I am conscious of the “hand of history”!   I am conscious that this is 28th September – ULSTER DAY – The day on which Ulster’s Solemn League and Covenant was signed in 1912.  However I am also conscious that I am, to a certain degree, following in the footsteps of a former Grand Master of the Loyal Orange Institution of Ireland, Sir George Clark, when, on 18th August 1962, he held talks with Senator J.G. Lennon, the National Vice -President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians – known as the “Orange and Green Talks”.

I think that it was Winston Churchill who said that every good speech should begin with a joke?  I do not have a joke to begin with – but a story.  A story of the BROWN PAPER BAG – Not a ‘brown envelope’ story which is so popular in this State!!

In the late 1940’s there lived a man in the Aldergrove area called James McConaghy.  He was a dedicated member of the AOH Division 164 CRUMLIN.  He walked every 15th August, and, as was his custom he dropped in for supper to his Orange neighbour on his return from his day out.

In the late 1940’s he was getting ‘on in years’ and on that last occasion on which he walked he was unwell.  He left his Orange neighbour after supper, and walked up the lane to his home where he died a few days later.

After he had left their home his neighbour discovered a BROWN PAPER BAG, containing his AOH Sash.  His immediate family were somewhat distant relatives and they did not want to take his AOH Sash.  This posed a serious problem.  What was this Orange family to do with an AOH Sash?  If popular opinion of Orangemen is to be believed – they would throw it in the back of the fire!  But not so!  They kept it in sacred trust and in memory of James McConaghy.  This AOH Sash is now in the THIRD generation of Orangemen – kept in sacred trust and in memory of James McConaghy.  Along with this Sash has been passed on through the generations this maxim – “An AOH man will do you know harm”.

I am sure that this story could told in reverse throughout rural Ireland.

However, may I place the AOH Sash of the late James McConaghy on your table, Mr President, in his sacred memory as I address you on this historic occasion?

THERE ARE MANY THINGS WHICH ARE COMMON TO BOTH OUR TRADITIONS:-

COMMON HISTORY

Both our traditions have their origins in the tensions, stress and, unfortunately conflict, of Ireland past.  You make claims to have had origins in what an unnamed writer in the Hibernian Journal noted as the “success of . . . 1641”.  We in the Orange tradition refer to it as the “Bloody Massacre of 1641”.  Some in the Orange tradition like to trace their origins back further than 1641 – to the Garden of Eden!  We can however agree that there is a common thread in our origins from the agrarian conflicts of eighteenth century Ireland.

COMMON RELIGIOUS PIETY

There are similar rings in “Faith and Fatherland” and “God and Ulster” – though the later is not an ORANGE slogan.  The religious nature is expressed in the fact that FAITH comes before Fatherland and GOD comes before Ulster.

The Qualifications of an Orangeman state:-

“An Orangeman should have a sincere love and veneration for his Heavenly Father; a humble and steadfast faith in Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, believing in Him as the only Mediator between God and man. He should cultivate truth and justice, brotherly kindness and charity, devotion and piety, concord and unity, and obedience to the laws; his deportment should be gentle and compassionate, kind and courteous; he should seek the society of the virtuous, and avoid that of the evil; he should honour and diligently study the Holy Scriptures, and make them the rule of his faith and practice; “.  .  .  .  .  .  . “he should never take the name of God in vain, but abstain from all cursing and profane language, and use every opportunity of discouraging those, and all other sinful practices, in others;”

The BASIS of the Orange Institution states:-

It is exclusively an Association of those who are attached to the religion of the Reformation, and will not admit into its brotherhood persons whom an intolerant spirit leads to persecute, injure, or upbraid any man on account of his religious opinions.

An AOH Leaflet states:-

“Membership is limited in the first place to practising Catholics, . . . ”  On Initiation a candidate is asked – “Are you a Catholic and have you complied with your Easter duty”?

We share a common religious piety albeit from a REFORMED and NON-REFORMED perspective.

COMMON FRATERNAL, BENEVOLENT AND SOCIAL NATURE

By their nature both our organisations are ‘fraternal’ – a male bonding fraternity in which mutual help and support are offered in times of need.  Therefore members make reference to each other as ‘Brother’.  Traditionally both our Orders have transcended class.   The social divisions which have plagued society in general have not existed in our respective organisations.

It is no secret that the Orange Institution has various benevolent schemes to help Widows, Orphans, Students and others.  Similarly, as you are well aware, the AOH has various schemes to aid those in time of need and is registered as a Friendly Society.

Socially both our Organisations sponsor social activities.  I am unaware of the response in the AOH, but in the Orange tradition they are more appreciated in rural communities than in the urban areas, where there are other obvious attractions.

COMMON IN OUR POLITICAL AWARENESS (Not Analysis)

Both our Orders are all Ireland bodies. Both our Organisations have underlying opposing political opinions.

Historically this was not always the case.  The first direct foray into politics by the Orange Institution was in relation to the Act of Union.  The politics of the day are reflected in the personalities of the first two Grand Masters of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland.

Thomas Verner (1774-1853), was the Grand Master of the Counties of Tyrone, Londonderry & Fermanagh, and was elected as first Grand Master of Ireland at its adjourned meeting, on 21st April 1798.  A position he retained until 1801.  Verner supported the Act of Union which united the Irish and British Parliaments, and created the Union Flag consisting of the cross of St. George and the saltires of St. Andrew and St. Patrick.  Through his wise political skill and leadership, as Grand Master, he prevented the differences of opinion over the Act of Union from becoming a cause of division within the Orange Institution.

Thomas Verner was followed, as Grand Master by George Ogle (1742-1814), in fractious circumstances.  Three Dublin Lodges, who held influence and power because of their numerical and intellectual strength, protested against the Grand Lodge injunction forbidding discussion of the Act of Union.  They demanded that a Grand Lodge be elected which would “support the independence of Ireland and the Constitution of 1782”.  They further stated that “as Orangemen we consider the extinction of our separate legislature as the extinction of the Irish nation.”  Of course for them, given the franchise of the day, the ‘nation’ only consisted of those whom they regarded as ‘loyal Protestants’, an attitude not entirely unknown even in the twenty-first century.

George Ogle was something of an Irish patriot.  He had been elected to the Irish Parliament in 1768 as a member from County Wexford, where he strenuously supported the legislative independence of the Irish Parliament which was eventually achieved in 1782. The political positions of Thomas Verner and George Ogle could not have been more different for the times in which they lived.  Verner was a pro-Unionist and Ogle an anti-Unionist,(Home Ruler), though both were pro-British.  The Rev Earl Storey, in his book, “Traditional Roots”,  examining the relationship between the Church of Ireland and the Orange Order, states:- “History makes it impossible to dispute that the Orange Order has a profound political dimension”.

The same could be said of the AOH – that it has “a profound political dimension”    In my understanding, which is not complete, I am led to believe that no AOH Candidate pledges himself to work for a UNITED IRELAND, but rather to the principles of FRIENDSHIP, UNITY AND TRUE CHRISTIAN CHARITY.  The desire to end Partition is part of your ethos, but not your principles.  As one of your leaflets states:- “The Order stands for a United Ireland under one Parliament and Government”.

Similarly within the Orange tradition no Candidate pledges himself to MAINTAIN THE UNION.  The principles of Orangeism are expressed in the “Qualifications of an Orangeman” and the BASIS of the Institution.  These are the core values of Orangeism.  The desire to maintain the Union is part of our ethos, not part of our principles, or core values.

IRONICALLY THEREFORE BOTH OUR ORGANISATIONS AT ONE TIME SHARED A COMMON POLITICAL ANALYSIS OF “INDEPENDENCE”!

COMMON PROBLEMS 

Both our Orders have faced common problems over the years of our existence.  In 1884 the AOH suffered a split which was healed in 1904.  On the other hand the Orange Order suffered a split in 1903 which was never healed.  In both our Orders the splits should never have taken place – they were not disputes over principle.

But the common problems we face today are twofold:-

Firstly – Misinformed criticism.

From the point of view of the AOH, the ‘Ghost’ of the Molly Maguires should be laid to rest in the mists and myths of the past – where it belongs.  But so also should a number of other myths.  The unnamed writer in the Hibernian Journal states: – “the toast of ‘the Glorious battle of the Diamond’ is given at all Orange banquets”. In my 38 years in the Orange Order I never heard such a toast!  Similarly, Lord Craigavon’s statement: – “Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people” is quoted in absence of the context.  The context, as you are well aware, is that of a reaction to a statement in the Dail that there was a Catholic Parliament for a Catholic people.

Your own explanatory leaflet paints a picture of Northern Ireland which I for one do not recognise, when it says:- “The Order is resolutely opposed to the present totalitarian system in the North, under which Irishmen are deprived of their civil, social, political and religious rights.”

We ought to tell the whole truth –  In this Island there was blatant discrimination against Protestants. – The McCann case in 1910 – The appointment of a Catholic Librarian in Mayo, instead of a better qualified Protestant in the 1930’s -The Fethard on Sea Boycott of the 1950’s, to mention but three.

There is a great danger on both sides of having a selective memory.  This applies to both our traditions.  I despair when I see painted on posters at Drumcree hill reference to “paedophile Priests” – selective memory has forgotten the Kincora scandal.

I despair for example when I read, in Orange publications, what purports to be a life of one of the great men of the past like the County Grand Master of Belfast (1885-1898), Rev. Dr. Richard Routledge Kane (1841-1898).  Dr. Kane was the Rector Christ Church (Church of Ireland) in Belfast, and according to R. M. Sibbett, had a “distinguished career in the interests of Protestantism and civil and religious liberty throughout the Empire”.  Dr. Kane was not only a great advocate of the Irish language but was, along with Dr. Buick the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and Dr. Welland the Church of Ireland Bishop of Down, Connor and Dromore, a patron of the Belfast Gaelic League, which had been founded in 1895.  It is also said that he signed the Minutes of Lodge meetings in Irish.

I despair when I read his life with no reference to his patronage of the Gaelic League or advocacy of the Irish language.

We have both painted a colourful (if not an inaccurate) picture of our opponents and therefore of our history and of ourselves.  We therefore ought to be honest enough to correct this and to do more in the future to educate those of our own particular tradition, in a less colourful interpretation of our history.

Both our Orders have suffered from allegations of ‘secret oaths’ – usually for the bloody annihilation of the opposition!

Secondly – the vagaries of the age.  Secularism & Materialism.

Whether we like it or not, we are living in a very different age from the age in which the founding fathers of our Orders lived.  Their challenges were challenges of human survival, religious ethos and political identity.

Often for them religion and politics were intertwined.

The generation growing up in the Ireland of today give no thought to human survival – for they have an abundance of good things.  Their religious ethos is moulded by the current fad – whatever is cool.  Their political identity is swallowed up in an inclusive European identity.

The challenge we both face is how to pass on to the next generation the religious, social and political values we hold dear.

IS THERE A FUTURE FOR BOTH OF US IN THIS NEW IRELAND?

There is a future for both of our traditions!  But we both need to carve out a new niche for ourselves in today’s society – we need to:-

EDUCATE

This new age in which we live is the new age of the global village.  It is not a ‘joining ‘ age – it is the age of the free spirit.  It is not an age of commitment – people are verbally committed to everything but really committed to nothing.

When New Labour came to power it was the new Prime Minister Tony Blair who underscored the maxim “EDUCATION! EDUCATION! EDUCATION!

We need to educate our respective communities – not in the prejudices of the past, or in mythical stories about the opposition – but in the core values of our respective Orders.  If we stick to our CORE VALUES we will be doing the greatest possible service of our respective traditions and communities.

But we also need to address those who oppose our respective traditions.  This can best be done through the education of dialogue.  As the eminent Dr. Samuel Johnston put it:- “Prejudice, not being founded on reason, cannot be removed by argument”.  If we are confident and comfortable in the values we hold dear – we should not only be willing to share those values with others, but have no fear in doing so.

ACCEPT A WILLINGNESS TO CHANGE

Not our principles – but we must be pragmatic in our policies.  We should not FEAR CHANGE.

In order to illustrate the problem a former county Grand Master of County Down Grand Orange Lodge often poses the question :- “Why are there no Corncrakes today?”  The Answer is obvious  – because they were stubborn!  They did not have the sense to change their nesting habits and move to the hedges – and thus avoid being cut to pieces by the combine harvester.

We have a common religious awareness – albeit from different perspectives – Reformed and Non -Reformed.  These form part of our core values.

We have a common political awareness albeit from different traditions which produce opposing analysis.  These do not form part of our core values.

We can change our public image, we can change our policies, we can change our presentation, without changing our core values.

TOLERANCE.

In the twenty-first century the only acceptable intolerance is the intolerance of intolerance.  This is the new age – an age of tolerance.  An age in which you must be politically correct.  An Age in which you cannot use legitimate words like ‘queer’ or ‘gay’ lest you should be misunderstood, or worse, give offence to someone who is ignorant of the English language!

In the past we have not always used the language or tolerance, in spite of all our affirmations of being a tolerant people.

We should acknowledge that we have not always behaved in a way, particularly in relation to the language we use, which enhances our core values.

Tolerance does not mean the acceptance of the other persons point of view, merely accept and acknowledge that he has the right to hold that point of view.

Bernard Levin the British Journalist writing in “The Pendulum Years” (1970) says:-

“In every age of transition men are never so firmly bound to one way of life as when they are about to abandon it, so that fanaticism and intolerance reach their most intense forms just before tolerance and mutual acceptance come to be the natural order of things”.

Mr President. I pray, for the love of Ireland, that he is right.

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