State Papers

Row over planned restoration of Co Armagh birthplace of Orange Order

Dr Brian Mawhinney (right), pictured with Tory leader John Major, announced funding in 1991 to restore the birthplace of the Orange Order
Dr Éamon Phoenix

THE restoration of a Co Armagh cottage viewed as the birthplace of the Orange Order drew criticism from some members of the Community Relations Council, declassified cabinet papers from 1990 reveal.

The files show a suggestion to restore the 18th century Dan Winters' cottage in Loughgall was made by the Ulster Society, a group founded by David Trimble, later Ulster Unionist leader, to promote Ulster/British culture and heritage.

Tony McCusker of the Central Community Relations Unit at Stormont Castle stated in January 1990 that NIO minister Dr Brian Mawhinney was "eager to announce [government] support for the Ulster Society to balance the support given to the Ultach Trust for the promotion of the Irish language".

However, Dr Roger Blaney from the board of the Community Relations Council complained there was "an absence of 'cultural tolerance' in the submission".

In his response, Donal McFerran, a prominent solicitor, felt that the cottage had a rightful place in history but regarded plans for a £300,000 interpretive centre as "more problematical" because it "could be interpreted by sections of the nationalist community as a purely sectarian project".

Dr Mawhinney announced funding for the centre in January 1991.

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