ORANGE ORDER REACHES OUT TO LOCAL COMMUNITY
13 August 2015
Co Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge
A report that sought the views of its own membership, as well as those of the wider community, has been published by Co Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge. The document contains the findings of a community audit completed in 2014. It was commissioned by the Order with the intention of increasing understanding and good relations across the community.
Officers from Co Fermanagh Grand Lodge have presented copies of the Report to the Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and to Mr Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in Ireland. They have also presented copies to political, civic and church leaders from right across the community.
The Secretary of State said ‘I very much welcome the publication of the County Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge’s Audit, Good Relations Strategy and Action Plan. This progressive initiative will help stimulate discussion on the role that the organisation can play as part of wider society in Northern Ireland and help provide a greater understanding of the Orange Institutions ethos and tradition both locally and internationally. It will also help create the circumstances, which allow its membership to take steps to address the many challenging viewpoints of the Order that are borne out in the audit findings. All of this will help develop better relationships and understanding between different parts of the community in County Fermanagh.’
Minister Charlie Flanagan said, “I was pleased to meet with the County Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge and to receive from them a copy of this Audit, Good Relations Strategy and Action Plan and I welcome its publication. It is a very positive step forward and I want to commend and congratulate all involved in Fermanagh for leading by example and working to build greater trust and respect across all strands of the community.”
A community audit is a way for any organisation to find out how its own membership and the wider community experience and perceive it. This new publication reports the results from what is the first ever community audit, consultation and good relations action plan for any County Grand Lodge to have been completed.
More than 600 members of the Loyal Order in the Lakeland county and a representation of people from across the community; including the voluntary, statutory and public sectors took part in the extensive information-gathering exercise. It took a year to complete and was supported by Fermanagh District Council and delivered by Green Hat, a locally based consultancy.
Participants have expressed opinions on a range of topics including parading, the use of Orange halls, flags and community education.
County Grand Master of County Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge, Stuart Brooker, maintained the project would form a basis for the Institution’s continuing outreach with the wider community.
He said, “This is a ground-breaking report and one which challenges many assumptions, views and perceptions about the Orange Order from both the wider public as well as the members. We hope it will be of great interest not only to those who hold the institution dear to their hearts but also to people who are suspicious – even hostile – to the Orange Order”.
Stuart Brooker continued, “It is clear from the research that the consensus is that the Orange Order have a major role in play in further developing good relations across the county, and we have set out how we plan to deliver this. We want to continue to play an active role in our local communities and raise awareness of our community work. This report has enabled us to have constructive conversations and we are pleased to present and discuss its findings. We want to joyfully celebrate our culture as well as be good neighbours”.
Fermanagh and Omagh District Council’s Good Relations Officer, Tommy McLaughlin, explained: “The council has been undertaking good relations activities for many years and this project essentially looked at how the Orange Order in Fermanagh engages with the local community”.
Green Hat’s Director, Bryony May, said: “This was both a sensitive and high profile project, and we recognise the leadership that County Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge have shown in undertaking this work. Green Hat brought an outsider perspective to the project and it was a bold move by the County Grand Lodge to work with us on this.
The report is designed to be a positive contribution to good relations in Fermanagh. It is available to read online via the publications section of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland website at www.grandorangelodge.co.uk
County Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge is grateful to Fermanagh District Council and Green Hat for making this piece of work possible, the first of its kind ever undertaken. It also gratefully acknowledges funding from the Community Relations Council that made the design and printing of the report possible.