GAA members visit Orange hall in cultural exchange
AN Orange hall in south Belfast has hosted members of a GAA club as part of a cultural exchange around a youth football tournament.
Bredagh GAC was welcomed into Ballynafeigh Orange Hall on the Ormeau Road on Saturday at the invitation of the Ballynafeigh Cultural and Heritage Society.
The club also returned the favour and brought society members to Cherryvale playing fields where a Feile Peile na nÓg tournament was being staged.
The idea for the visit came from Malcolm McFarlane, chairman of Bredagh GAC which hosted the tournament, and Stephen Biggerstaff, chairman of the Ballynafeigh Cultural and Heritage Society.
The men met at a workshop organised by Clanmil Housing to create a residents' charter for a new shared development in the area.
Mr Biggerstaff said they are proud of their historic hall, and always keen to welcome visitors and share their history and culture.
"It's great to have these visitors with us today. As well as some competitive matches, we hope they've enjoyed the tours and understand a little more about the history and heritage of the loyal institutions and what they are about," he said.
Mr McFarlane said: "Ballynafeigh Orange Hall is a well-known landmark in the area but isn't a place that GAA members would normally visit. Offering tours of the building seemed like a really good idea."
The visitors heard about the origins and history of the Orange Order and saw examples of some of the banners and regalia used in the Ballynafeigh district.
The Ormeau Road was the scene of tensions during the mid-1990s over the route of an Orange parade but has since been peaceful and the area around the Orange hall is mixed.
The Orange Order last month welcomed Leo Varadkar on a visit to its headquarters in east Belfast, the first taoiseach to do so. However, it has rejected requests for a meeting from Sinn Féin leaders.