The Grand Master of the Orange Lodge Edward Stevenson has praised the decision by authorities in the Republic of Ireland to incorporate last Saturday’s Twelfth march in Rossnowlagh into the Gathering.
“It is extremely pleasing that authorities in the Republic have incorporated this long established event into a wider tourism initiative to encourage more visitors with Irish ancestry to return to their homeland this year.
“What finer gathering can there be - as witnessed here today - than the sight, sound and pageantry of an Orange parade set against such a magnificent backdrop?
“We trust those in the corridors of power in Dublin will continue to recognise and value the contribution of the minority Protestant community to wider society in the Republic of Ireland.”
He said he had met personally with the Taoiseach and raised issues of concern to the minority Protestant community int he Republic: “Senior representatives of Grand Lodge, including myself, have met personally with the Taoiseach and other government officials on your behalf.
“On pertinent issues, like the future funding of Protestant schools, we will continue to ensure the voice of those most directly affected is both heard and understood.
“The thousands of people in attendance today, both participating and spectating, provides visible proof and a welcome reminder of the enduring strength of our Loyal Institution. Orangeism remains an integral part of the fabric and make-up of the Protestant inhabitants of this island, none more so than south of the border.”
He said Orange Lodges continue to thrive and prosper and thrive not only in Donegal, but also in the border counties of Monaghan, Cavan and Leitrim. “An active Orange presence is also maintained in Dublin, while we also have members in Cork, North Tipperary, Longford and Limerick,” he added.
Over 40 Orange halls in the Republic provide meeting places for our membership, however – what is not widely known is that these buildings also offer a social lifeline to otherwise isolated rural communities, with many other groups also availing of the facilities, he said.
“It is therefore encouraging to observe the recent refurbishment of Orange property taking place across the south. I personally attended the re-opening of Doorin Orange Hall earlier this year following an extensive renovation, and look forward to the completion of separate ongoing improvement works at Ballintra and Manorcunningham. I also congratulate the brethren of Doorin following the unfurling of their impressive new banner.
“Such developments, aided by today’s large turnout, make it abundantly clear the Orange Order does have a bright future in this part of the world. The Institution can quite rightly look ahead with a positive mindset, and with renewed confidence and vigour.
“I congratulate you all in sustaining Rossnowlagh as the true ‘hidden gem’ of our annual celebrations and with God’s richest blessing, I trust we all will enjoy yet another Glorious Twelfth.”