Orange Order turns down AOH parade invitation
The Orange Order has turned down an invitation by the Ancient Order of Hibernians to join its biggest parade of the year.
The Catholic organisation invited the Protestant loyal order to take part in its main Ulster parade in Donegal town on Sunday August 16.
Up to 7,000 AOH members from across Ireland are expected to join the march which is traditionally staged on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.
John Byrne, president of the Donegal board of the AOH, said divisions of the organisation throughout nine-county Ulster would this year mark the feast day on August 15 with minor marches in their home towns, before coming together for the major parade the following day.
It traditionally concludes with the singing of Irish Catholic anthem Faith of Our Fathers and the national anthem Amhrán na bhFiann.
Established in New York in 1836, the AOH was set up initially to defend Catholic churches from attacks.
Viewed by some as a “green” version of the Orange Order, the organisation spread to Ireland where it was championed by legendary Belfast nationalist MP Joe Devlin.
By 1909, it boasted a membership of around 64,000 in Ireland. However, numbers later declined and today the Irish AOH is strongest in Ulster.
As well as promoting Catholic ideals, it is heavily involved in charitable works.
Mr Byrne said the “open invitation” to join the Donegal town parade had the full backing of the AOH national executive.
“This is something we talked about before but it never happened. The invitation is my own decision and I decided on it in the interests of promoting peace,” he said.
His invitation has been turned down by the Orange Order, although the door was left open for some form of talks.
A spokesman said there had been no formal approach as far as the Order was aware.
He said: “Since the two organisations have different aims and objectives it seems unlikely that a parade of both together would take place.
“However, in the spirit in which the invite has been issued, we would welcome engagement through our educational outreach programmes so that mutual respect can be encouraged.”