A Vision for the Institution

A Vision for the Institution.

Speech by 

Rev Brian Kennaway M.A., Deputy Grand Chaplain of Ireland, 

Convenor of the Education Committee of the G.O.L.I.

At Eldon L.O.L. 7 Dinner 5 November 1998

I am honoured to respond to the TOAST ‘Ulster’ as Ulstermen we understand that the future of ‘Ulster’ in inextricably linked to the future of the Orange Order.  Even our enemies realise that!

The issues which confront us are not simple and easy issues.  They are complex and even fundamental.  I have heard members of this Institution say that we have had these things before.  Well if we have then we should have addressed them and they would not have come back again to haunt us.  But I do not believe that we have had an issue like this since the beginning of this century – Since the formation of the State.

It is not simply a matter of the Person who occupies the Office of Grand Master.

It is not simply a matter of standing up for traditional parade routes.

It is not a matter of simply attempting to reverse the perceived decline in membership.

It may well be a compilation of all these issues but fundamentally brethren it is an issue of the DIRECTION of this Institution.  This is a struggle for the heart and soul of the Loyal Orange Institution of Ireland make, no mistake about that!

Let me ITEMISE three of the problems as I see them:-

Problem of perception – we are living in a world where PERCEPTION is REALITY

Public perception of our Institution is largely controlled by the MEDIA.  Recent events have created a public perception of the Institution of which I for one am ashamed.  What are these recent events?

✍  Men wearing Orange Regalia watching a gunman firing at Her Majesties Security Forces.

✍ Men wearing Orange Regalia cheering  at Her Majesties Security Forces being felled by a blast bomb!

✍ Members of the Institution dancing naked in front of women and children at Drumcree.

✍ Having public protests which result in the injury or death of members of Her Majesties Security    Forces.

(30 years ago we condemned the NICRA for bringing people unto the streets and not accepting responsibility for the violence which resulted)

Problem of principles – where principles and practice appear to be a variance

We seem to make reference ad nausea to the “Principles of the Institution”.  I often wonder what we mean!  This is a constant problem which I come across as I try to explain the Institution to those outside.  They often say – “those are your principles but what about your practice?”  The attention of the Institution has been drawn to this in the Education Committee Report of June ’98

Many interest groups, public and private, continue to express a desire to understand the Orange Institution.  We respond to as many of these engagements as possible and find a general willingness to listen and understand the principles of the Institution.   There is however some confusion when these principles are compared to the practice of some of our membership. particularly the practice projected in the media.”

Problem of Direction – either confrontation or consensus. Who wins by confrontation?

In May 1997 I took it upon myself to send my personal analysis of the situation to every County Grand Master and warned of the dangers of confrontation in the following terms: –

We will further weaken the Union, by being seen as defying the lawful authority of the Union that we proclaim to uphold.

We will lose credibility among our friends at home and abroad.

We will be giving ammunition to our enemies.

We will be achieving what the IRA/Sinn Fein have failed to achieve in 30 years of terror – we will in fact be playing the IRA game, working to their agenda, by contributing to community confrontation, with the RUC being opposed by both sides. Thereby credence will be given to the Sinn Fein/IRA call for the removal of the RUC.

Our own people will be forced to oppose the forces of Law and Order. (As we have already seen).

As an Institution we will lose the support of moderate opinion within the Institution. Many who have long remained silent, may well leave us. We could be reduced to the level of a mere sect.

It was I believe David Bleakley who said many years ago said words to the effect – “The Union will not be broken by the IRA but by the Unionists”!

There is little sense analysing the problems without giving a possible solution.  It would be like a minister constantly preaching about SIN without presenting the divine remedy for sin – CHRIST!  WHAT IS THE ANSWER TO THE SITUATION?  IT IS I BELIEVE TO HAVE A NEW VISION FOR THE INSTITUTION!


HOW CAN WE DO THAT ?  BY REFORMATION NOT REVOLUTION. GOING forward by going backwards. The Reformers went BACK to Basics at the Sixteenth century Reformation.

A one time resident of Armagh called Daly once said – “The trouble with Protestants is that they define themselves by what they are not rather than by what they are”.  That is the FUNDAMENTAL issue which we must address! Are we merely content to define ourselves NEGATIVELY ?  Are we merely an Ani-Papist Organisation or a Pro-Witness Organisation?

The choice before the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland is a simple one:- Either we are content to continue to define ourselves NEGATIVELY and bury our heads in the proverbial sand, complaining when we are misrepresented and misunderstood BUT making absolutely no effort to be understood by others, Or we recognise the POSITIVE heritage which is ours and seek to ACTIVELY to promote that positive Protestant image understood as a ‘witness for’ the truth of the Gospel.

We cannot promote that POSITIVE IMAGE in a negative way – we ought to carefully scrutinise ALL our activities to ensure that a positive Protestant image is being presented!

That is why if we are to promote a positive image we MUST say good-by to the NEGATIVE image and if necessary to those brethren who would enslave us to that negative image.

HOW CAN WE DO THAT?  By returning to our core values

The Issues facing Orangeism in Ireland today bear a striking similarity to many another organisation, institution or cultural group in the world today.  – CAN WE LIVE UP TO OUR CORE VALUES?

The Core Values of Orangeism are the Eternal Values of Ethical Orangeism – The Values of Civic Society. The question is can the Orange Institution live up to its Core Values?

Ethical Orangeism is inspired by the principles of Orangeism – the ethics of Orangeism!  The Ethics of Orangeism are clearly demonstrated in the ‘Qualifications of an Orangeman’ and the ‘Basis of the Institution’.  Both of these documents express clearly and without reserve the three fundamental principles of Brotherhood, Civil and Religious Liberty and Tolerance.


By its nature the Institution is a ‘fraternity’ – 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 Orangeism has transcended classes, the Land Lord and Tenant being equal within the Order and within the same Lodge. In many cases an employee as a Master of the Lodge exercised authority over his employer.

As the Orange Order grew and spread to countries like Ghana, Togo, North America, and New Zealand it was said of Orangeism

“English speaking and French speaking, black and white, employer and employee all call themselves brothers”  It stood for equality with no racial or ethnic privileges.

Religious Piety

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;”

I do get concerned when I read about our “culture” all be it a ‘Protestant culture’ and little or nothing is said about ‘THE FAITH”.  We are NOT a cultural organisation but a religious organisation.

Civic Awareness

The BASIS of the Institution make that clear –

“The Institution is composed of Protestants, united and resolved to the utmost of their power to support and defend the rightful Sovereign, the Protestant Religion, the Laws of the Realm, and the Succession to the Throne in the House of Windsor, BEING PROTESTANT; and united further for the defence of their own Persons and Properties, and the maintenance of the Public Peace.  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.  They associate also in honour of KING WILLIAM III, Prince of Orange, whose name they bear, as supporters of his glorious memory.”

Civil & Religious Liberty

It promotes the ideals of Liberty and the values of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 which began the creation of constitutional government and the securing of Civil and Religious Liberty of everyone.  LIBERTY, EQUALITY AND FRATERNITY stand at the heart of ethical Orangeism.

The Civil and Religious Liberty which we so rightly claim for ourselves is not restricted to ourselves but is affirmed for all.  That is why the Grand Master and some of us went to Harryville to protest at the denial of that liberty for those with whom we disagreed theologically.


The BASIS of the Institution affirms:-

“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.”

Every group/society/institution needs to re-evaluate itself and reconnect!  We need to go back to the basic principles of Orangeism and therefore away from the confrontation of the POLITICS and PARADES which have plagued Orangeism in recent years.

We must all endeavour to disarm suspicion and antagonism.  This can best be done by setting a good example in our daily lives, by living up to the high principles of the Order so that every section of the community will be compelled to admit that there is something in the Orange Society that elevates a man and raises him above the average of humanity.  Something that makes him a better man morally, socially and intellectually.


That is the choice before us – LIFE or DEATH!

As Dr. W.W. Porter said in a article in the Belfast Telegraph following the Twelfth this year:

“Many Orangemen are simply broken-hearted.  The Twelfth of July 1998 certainly could not be described as a “Celebration”.  Scores, if not hundreds simply did not turn out.  For some who did parade, the scenes at Pomeroy, Kilkeel and Irvingstown reduced our claim to be a “brotherhood” to the level of a sick joke.  In Pomeroy especially, the interruption of a Service of Worship, and the abuse of a young Minister of the Gospel by Joel Patton, one of the leaders of the self-styled ‘Spirit of Drumcree’ group, was a blatant breach of Orange Principles not to mention the question of appropriate manners.”

He concluded –

“Orangeism faces that choice.  Do we really want actively to pursue a programme of peace and a positive sharing of our evangelical faith with all our fellow-countrymen, or are we to be wedded to a policy of confrontation issuing in bitterness, bigotry, burning and eventual death and destruction?

Do we follow Christ’s way or the way of unregenerate men?  The one way will honour our own principles and bring blessing to our land.  The other has nothing to offer but misery.  The choice is ours!  The silent will have to speak.  The decent will have to stand.”

Therein lies the future of Orangeism and of ULSTER!