Towards a renewed Orange tradition…

Brian Kennaway delivered a presentation to the West Belfast Festival last Saturday. Daily Ireland covered it as a front page article yesterday, which emphasised the need of the Orange to change. Roy Garland who was also present on Saturday gives his view. For the rest of us, who missed the original, here is Kennaway’s original presentation:From Brian Kennaway

May I just say three things about this publication! (Presbyterian Ministers normally have THREE points to their sermons – though some are pointless)


Because of the evident ignorance which exists about the Orange Tradition – a tradition which predates the Orange Institution by 100 years. But that ignorance also extends to the workings and beliefs of the Loyal Orange Institution of Ireland which was founded in 1795.

The Rev. F. Rupert Gibson, a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (1971) wrote in the 1950’s:

Probably there is no human institution claiming to be based on the Bible and professing to maintain the principles of the Reformed Faith, which has been more bitterly maligned by its avowed foes and more falsely represented by those who profess to be its friends, than the Orange Order. (Orangeism: Its Religious Origin, Its Scriptural Basis, Its Protestant Principles. circa. 1950)

I would endorse the words of Dr. Gibson because that has been my experience over the last forty-two years of membership – a lack of knowledge. A lack of knowledge both within and without the Orange Institution, about the Orange Institution – its history – its beliefs – its standards.

THOSE WITHIN the membership believe things about the history of the Institution which evidently have no historical basis. They also believe that the Order stands for and believes things which are not clearly stated in the historical documents of the Institution.

THOSE WITHOUT the membership are obviously sometimes malevolent in stating, incorrectly, what the Institution believes. Equally those who are not within the membership, or indeed the Orange tradition, often object to Orangeism because of a lack of knowledge as to the Institution’s beliefs and motivations.

This book came about in order to deal with those issues. It is therefore designed and written for all to read. It is written those inside the Orange Order so that they might see where things have gone wrong in recent years, and where in some areas current practice is not a reflection of Orange principals.

It is equally written for those outside the Order so that by reading they might better understand, not just the Orange Institution, but that wider Orange tradition with whom they share this island, in this new dispensation of an Ireland of equals.


IT IS NOT A BOOK WHICH DEMONISES THE ORANGE ORDER, rather it places the present condition of the Orange Institution within its historical setting.

l The twin challenges facing the Orange Institution of today are obvious – LEADERSHIP [In what direction are we going] and DICSIPLINE [Does our practice display our principles]

l The Orange Order will have to decide whether it is a religious organisation with a political element or a political organisation with a religious element, because there is an obvious present contradiction between the principles which the Order claims to espouse and its public practice.

l The Institution has an obvious IMAGE PROBLEM – But you cannot change the IMAGE without changing the PRACTICE – that is SPIN, not SUBSTANCE, and we are all sick of spin!

l Emphasising CULTURE at the expense of FAITH is NOT changing practice but changing the fundamental BASIS of Orangeism.

l This book presents to the world where the Orange Order has come from, how it has evolved, where its present dilemma lies, so that by the acquiring of knowledge of these things it might lead to a better understanding.

l We are living in an age of transparency. It is therefore only but right that all organisations – both private and public should be subject to the scrutiny of transparency.


The response I have had since the FIRST Launch of this book at the end of April has been most positive and encouraging. The most common response from Orangeman at every level has been – “That book had to be written”. The most common response from those outside the Orange tradition has been – “I have learned so much from reading that book”. Any author would be satisfied with such a response within three months of publication.

But though I am satisfied I have a greater desire! Given that, the affirmation of the 1916 PROCLAIMATION – “The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, . . .”, is not dissimilar from the Orange affirmation of “civil and religious liberty for all – special privileges for none”, my desire and hope goes further.

It is my hope, and my earnest desire and my prayer, that by reading this book your knowledge will be enhanced and your understanding extended, so that together – both traditions, can build an IRELAND OF EQUALS, in which, to quote the words of the PROCLAIMATION, “cherishing all of the children of the nation equally. . .” – will become a visible reality!