Order charge Elliott & Kennedy

It is no surprise to anyone that Tom Elliott and Danny Kennedy have been formally charged for paying their respects to a servant of the Crown, by going to the funeral Mass of Ronan Kerr.

It is as illogical as it is mind-blowing, but is yet another example of ‘shooting yourself in the foot’, particularly as it follows the publicity around the resignation of former Assistant Grand Master the Rev. Stephen Dickinson.

Of course there are RULES in the Orange Order – but Rules need to be both properly understood and wisely interpreted. The Rule which both Elliott and Kennedy are accused of breaking is, “Participation in a ceremony of worship not of the Reformed Faith.”

They were present, that cannot be denied! But did they participate simply by their presence? In the history of the Institution there was never an offence listed of ‘attending’ – the same is true today. It is the Qualifications which add that an Orangeman should: scrupulously avoid countenancing (by his presence or otherwise) any act or ceremony of Romish Worship. This statement did not enter the Qualifications until 1885.

This issue has plagued the Orange Institution for many years. Other high profile figures in the Institution fell foul of it in the 1960’s, like Phelim O’Neill former NI Minister of Education and Sir Robin Kinahan former Lord Mayor of Belfast.

When the Orange Institution was formed in 1795 there was no such Rule, and the Qualifications were silent on such matters. The second Grand Secretary, Dr.  Patrick Duigenan, was married to a practising Roman Catholic.

To add to the confusion on whether or not attending is participating, the present Grand Secretary is on record as stating, “mere attendance at a meeting would not necessarily be judged to be participation”.

To many readers this is academic, and rightly so, because the Rule is kept in the breach by multitudes of Orangemen. Orangemen throughout the country have no problem paying their respects by attending the funeral Mass of a neighbour. Nor do they have they any sense of betrayal by attending a wedding in a Roman Catholic Chapel. Neither of these civil acts makes them any less committed to their Orange principles.

What marks this out as significant is that those who are aware of the working of the Institution know the measure of the hypocrisy. It is personal because of the individuals involved.

Sandy Row Orange Hall, in which LOL 821 meet has a Bar, whether licensed or un-licensed I know not.  This seems to be in contravention of another Rule which prohibits a Lodge from meeting in such premises.  Orange Halls take Lottery money, and prominent members worship at the shrine of Ibrox on the Sabbath.

The members of this Lodge should consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 7;5 “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

Brian Kennaway

Author: The Orange Order: A Tradition Betrayed.


This article appeared in the Belfast News Letter October 2011