‘It’s not just about the Twelfth’ says Orange Order chief executive

Orange Order chief executive Iain Carlisle speaking to the News Letter's Mark Rainey at  Schomberg House in east Belfast. 
Picture: Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
Orange Order chief executive Iain Carlisle speaking to the News Letter's Mark Rainey at Schomberg House in east Belfast. Picture: Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Orange Order chief executive Iain Carlisle in conversation with the News Letter:

Have you set any personal goals – or goals for the Institution?

I want to build greater awareness around the organisation to try and portray the fact that we’re not a one day a year organisation – that we have activities throughout the year. I want to grow awareness that it’s not just about the Twelfth of July.

We want to continue to improve how we communicate within and without the organisation. The fact we’re 220-years-old doesn’t mean we have to keep doing things the way we’ve always done it. We need to educate our own members, and the wider public, about the rich history and cultural heritage.

Will the Order have to adapt for its continued survival?

We need to embrace change. Churches, fraternal organisations, charities, including youth organisations, have seen a decline in membership over the years, and we are not isolated from that, however, to a large degree we do buck that trend a bit in that there are still large numbers of young people joining the organisation. But we need to become increasingly relevant.

Would you like to see even more Orange halls opened up for cross-community events?

There are lots of halls which act as very vibrant community hubs and in some cases that does include cross-community elements. There are quite a few social events and halls are used for a range of things from first aid training, to dance classes, to after school homework clubs.

We had a large new Orange heritage centre opened in Limavady last Saturday at the cost of almost three quarters of a million pounds. That will incorporate a Credit Union facility, an interpretive historical centre with the capacity to host group visits, and it also has the traditional background of being the Orange hall for the town.

Where do you see the Institution in ten years?

I see an organisation that remains vibrant, relevant and community centred, and one which is confident and respected, and cherished as part of the cultural fabric in Northern Ireland, but also in the border counties of the Republic of Ireland and across the British Isles. We have some really good young people coming through at the minute and I look forward to seeing their generation taking up leadership roles in the coming years.

Which historical figure do you most admire?

In the week that it is I’m going to have to say King William III – not simply because I’m an Orangeman, but because William’s wider legacy is often overlooked.

William achieved a lot in a relatively short reign (1688-1702) _ creating the Grand Alliance against Louis XIV, founding a modern banking system and formalising a Bill of Rights and Parliamentary democracy.

Your background and current interests?

I studied history at Queen’s and graduated in 1991. I moved into the agriculture sector and worked for seed companies for around ten years and then moved to the Ulster-Scots sector. I worked in the Ulster-Scots Community Network and I maintain an interest in the Ulster-Scots community. I am a board member of the Ulster-Scots Agency as well, so I maintain that interest in terms of music and history.”

Last year we (Brunswick Accordion Band Annalong) played at the Menin Gate and the Ulster Tower. The Menin Gate is something special.

One of the big things we did on our trip to Flanders was to commission a new piece of music to be played at the Menin Gate. It was written for the band and called Men of Mourne. It’s very moving and very poignant. . It was an original composition and it was very memorable to commission it and to go and play it.

Those are the type of things that, away from the desk, enthuse me...local history, military history.

Anything about you that might surprise people?

I am a classically trained pianist. I attended lessons as a young person and then went to the South Eastern Music Centre in Ballynahinch. I am very fond of classical piano music.

I have also recently taken up running with my wife Laura.