Parity of Esteem in Remembrance

Parity of Esteem in Remembrance

I agree with Professor Walker, in his article, “Painful reminder of Ireland’s bloody past”, (1/2/98), when he maintains that the emphasis so far has been on the United Irishmen and little on the Loyalists.  Because most of the history books on Ireland have been written from a sympathetic point of view towards Irish nationalism, the Orange Institution’s part in suppressing the Rebellion has either been neglected, or else mentioned only in passing.

It is only but right that the terrible suffering should not be forgotten remembering that there were atrocities on both sides.  It is encouraging that those who are commemorating ’98 now acknowledge the Massacre at Scullabogue, when thirty-seven Protestants were shot and one hundred and eighty-four men women and children, were burned to death on 5th June 1798.  This was followed on 20th June by the piking of Protestant prisoners on Wexford Bridge.

The issues involved in 1798 are as complex as the history of Ireland itself.  The Rebellion in Wexford, largely motivated by agrarian discontent, quickly degenerated into sectarianism as was evidenced by the events at Scullabogue and  Wexford Bridge.  The Rebellion in Antrim and Down was of a more intellectual motivation.

The Orange Institution can trace it’s history to ‘both sides’.  It is true that the members of the Institution in 1798 were Loyalists and therefore supported the forces of the Crown.  In many instances whole Lodges joined the Yeomanry.  But it is not to be forgotten that it was the descendants of the men who were ‘out’ in ’98 who joined the Institution in the subsequent generations.  The Rebellion in Ulster may have had a more lasting effect if the United Irishmen had not allied themselves so readily with the blatantly sectarian and ill named ‘Defenders’.

In order that the ‘real story’ should be told the Education Committee of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland: has published two booklets to mark the bicentenary:-

“Murder Without Sin”, being edited extracts from the publication:-“ORANGEISM; ITS ORIGIN AND HISTORY” by Ogle Robert Gowan, first published in Toronto 1859.  Reprinted  so as to make available to a wider public an authoritative record from the pen of one who was much closer to the events of the ‘reign of terror’, in Wexford during the course of the Rising.

We have also published a reprint from the Official history of the Order – “The Sunshine Patriots: The 1798 Rebellion in Antrim & Down” by R.M. Sibbett. Reprinted from:- “ORANGEISM IN IRELAND AND THROUGHOUT THE EMPIRE” [Thynne & Co., Ltd 1938]

An understanding of the events surrounding the 1798 Rebellion in Ireland is a key to an understanding of the divided loyalties in our society today.  The support for the rebellion by many northern Protestants, particularly Presbyterians, was quickly, in historical terms, turned to support for the Crown and Constitution.  Thus it has remained until the present day.

Rev. Brian Kennaway


Education Committee

Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland


This Letter appeared in the Sunday Times 22 February 1998