Northern Ireland

Unionism should be 're-energised' if general election called says Orange Order

Orange grand master Edward Stevenson
Orange grand master Edward Stevenson

UNIONIST politics should be "re-energised" if a general election is called, the leader of the Orange Order said yesterday.

Grand master Edward Stevenson added that political influence must be maximised to meet challenges ahead.

"If we are to indeed see a general election in the next year, there is a real challenge for unionism as a whole in ensuring that we re-engage with non-voters and to re-energise unionist politics as an electoral force with a strong, attractive message," he said.

"This institution has played an important role in the elections of past generations and we must be willing to go the extra mile to help political unionism in the challenges ahead.

"We are a broad church in terms of political views – however, one thing all our members can agree on is that our interests are best served as citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland."

Thousands of Orange Order members took part yesterday in Twelfth demonstrations, with major parades held at 18 venues.

Marching bands and loyal order lodges paraded through streets across the north before congregating at fields to hear speeches and prayers delivered by senior Orangemen.

The longest parade was in Belfast, where hundreds of Orange lodge members, accompanied by about 60 bands, made their way through the city towards the demonstration field on the southern outskirts.

Tandragee village in Co Armagh hosted the biggest gathering with 11 district lodges parading and almost 5,000 brethren.

Co Tyrone's biggest parade was in Pomeroy, while Rathfriland hosted the largest parade in Co Down with 95 lodges and 60 bands taking part in the march.

Other parades were held in Lisnaskea in Co Fermanagh; Donemana and Augher in Co Tyrone; and Coleraine and Ballyronan in Co Derry.

There were also demonstrations in Holywood, Crossgar and Kilkeel in Co Down; and Larne, Glenavy, Carnlough, Ballymena, Ballymoney and Ahoghill in Co Antrim.