At the Belfast Field, strong support for UK’s vote for Brexit

Kenneth Hughes, left, and his son Thomas, from Aintree, Liverpool at the Field at Barnetts Park, July 12 2016. Picture by Ben Lowry
Kenneth Hughes, left, and his son Thomas, from Aintree, Liverpool at the Field at Barnetts Park, July 12 2016. Picture by Ben Lowry

Deep Euroscepticisim among members of the Orange Order was apparent at the Belfast Field this week.

The News Letter asked members at Barnett Demense on July 12 whether or not they had voted for Brexit.

David Nightingale from Newtownards at the Field at Barnetts Park

David Nightingale from Newtownards at the Field at Barnetts Park

Overwhelmingly, they said that they had done.

Kenneth Hughes and his son Thomas, aged 17, from Aintree in Liverpool were both Brexiteers, although the latter was too young to vote.

“We are losing our national identity,” said Kenneth, whose family has a strong tradition of Orange membership, despite being of Welsh and English origin and not of Northern Irish descent.

Asked whether they were concerned that Brexit might break up the UK, Mr Hughes said: “I think it will be a bumpy road but at the end of the day it will be better for everyone.”

George Chittick, County Grand Master Belfast, at the Field at Barnetts Park, July 12 2016

George Chittick, County Grand Master Belfast, at the Field at Barnetts Park, July 12 2016

WT Dawson MBE, an 86-year-old retired businessman from Saintfield who has been a member of the Orange Order for more than 60 years, was another Brexit supporter.

“I feel the European Union was imposing too many conditions on people and some of them were not rational,” he said.

A Scottish Orangeman, Ian Bell, who was enjoying his first Twelfth in Belfast, supported Brexit despite his fears that it would lead to a fresh Scottish push for independence.

“A second referendum is inevitable,” the member of 255 lodge in District 20 said. Why then did he back Brexit?

Agnes Whiteside, from Newtownabbey, at the Field at Barnetts Park

Agnes Whiteside, from Newtownabbey, at the Field at Barnetts Park

“Because of the situation we have been under. We are capable of supporting ourselves and trading ourselves.

“I feel strongly about the EU but I also feel strongly about the Union.”

He said that some Orangemen in Scotland had voted Remain for that reason.

Sure enough, one of only two people who had voted Remain of the more than 20 people that the News Letter talked to at the Field was a Scottish Orangeman who did not want to give his name or his reasons for voting to stay in the EU.

WT Dawson

WT Dawson

David Nightingale from Newtownards voted for the UK to quit the EU because he ultimately decided, narrowly, we were better off out. But he found it a difficult choice.

“It was the toss of a coin,” he said, adding that he was unimpressed that both Leave and Remain had used scare tactics in their campaigns.

George Chittick, the County Grand Master for Belfast, was appalled that “in 17 years there has been no EU audit”.

Mr Chittick, a retired civil servant with Roads Service, said: “I had to put in an audit every year.”

The Rev William Malcolmson, of the Congregational Church, said he was a convinced supporter of Brexit.

Mr Malcolmson, 84, who is chaplain for No 9 District, said: “I believe that Britain is a nation covenanted to God by her constitution and monarchy. The official religion of the nation is the Protestant reformed faith.

Ian Bell from Scotland at the Field at Barnetts Park

Ian Bell from Scotland at the Field at Barnetts Park

“A nation like ours should run itself under Christian moral principles. Europe was detrimental to that.”

Rev Malcolmson added: “Even geographically we were always separate from Europe. We fought wars against countries from mainland Europe.”

The only opponent of Brexit who would put their name to it, for the purposes of this article, was Agnes Whiteside, a housewife from Newtownabbey. “There were mixed views in my household but from day one I wanted to stay,” she said.

Why was that?

“I don’t know, to be honest,” she replied. “I just did.”

Among the other supporters of Brexit at the Field were the Ulster Unionist councillors Jim Rodgers and Fraser Agnew, both of whom said they had had no hesitation in backing an EU departure.

Rev Wiliam Malcolmson, Chaplain Number 9 District, at the Field at Barnetts Park, July 12 2016. Picture by Ben Lowry

Rev Wiliam Malcolmson, Chaplain Number 9 District, at the Field at Barnetts Park, July 12 2016. Picture by Ben Lowry