…Worshipful Brother Edward Stevenson, previously Deputy Grandmaster of Ireland, and currently County Grand Master of Tyrone. The 55 yr old Farmer from outside Strabane was elected by a majority of the members present at a delayed meeting of Grand Lodge hosted by County Londonderry Grand Orange Lodge.
The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland comprises of current office holders, senior office holders from the 13 constituent Counties (9 Ulster, plus Leitrim, Dublin & Wicklow, Belfast and Londonderry City) and one representative from each District Lodge to convey grassroots views. The method of election is normally simply a proposal, then seconded, any other proposals and a show of hands.
As for an insight into Brother Stevenson, I’m afraid I cant tell you that much, he is a farmer from the other end of Tyrone so don’t know him personally, but having met him on a few occasions I got the impression he is a quiet man, unlikely to make inflammatory speeches or rouse a rabble you will be glad to hear, but from what I heard holds strongly to his views on what type of organisation he wishes to see the order become, with the religious and community aspects of a higher importance than the cultural or political elements.
Unlike the previous holder who was an active DUP supporter, Stevenson is reportedly more inclined to the UUP, however I believe he is highly unlikely to interfere in the political process, except when it has direct implications on the Orange Institution or on issues the transcend the various parties, a good example of this is the decision in recent years to discourage political speeches from the platform at 12th of July Parades in Tyrone, an example which maybe other counties will soon follow.
The other impression of Edward Stevenson I always got was that he put the Christian principles of the Orange before any others, something which most of the membership in rural Tyrone would also shared, but one that is not always as prevalent with more urban membership, as the first Grand Master from outside of Belfast for a generation there will be the possibility of a clash of culture on some occasions, but as the role does not carry as much power as the title suggests I can’t see him being a divisive figure within the Order.
Finally I would like to pay tribute Bobby Saulters for his service over the last 14 years, I occasionally despaired of his political dabbling and foot-in-mouth comments, but he was always a down to earth gentleman who had time to talk to everyone and took a genuine interest in the welfare of the membership. I would like to wish Edward well and trust he will lead with integrity and vision.
*several others are also acknowledged as de-facto Grand-Master during periods when Grand Lodge was not in operation.