The first professional survey of Orangemen in Fermanagh has found considerable support for ending the ban on attending Mass.
The information-gathering exercise, run by consultancy firm Green Hat and partly funded by Fermanagh District Council, saw a survey sent to all the county’s roughly 1,800 Orangemen.
A large percentage – almost a third – responded, and the results were published as a 166-page report last night.
They include a finding that almost half of those who responded believe the rule barring Orangemen from attending Mass should be changed; just 25 per cent believe it should stay.
The issue has led to a firm divergence of opinion within the Order in recent years, particularly after top UUP members and Orangemen Tom Elliott and Danny Kennedy ignored the prohibition to attend the funeral of PSNI officer Ronan Kerr.
The Mass finding may be influenced by the overwhelmingly Church of Ireland make-up of Fermanagh Orangemen, with 77 per cent coming from an Anglican background.
It also showed that 43 per cent believe shared education should be encouraged, with 30 per cent opposed and that a third of Fermanagh Orangemen do not think the Order is doing enough to promote good relations.
There are also a lot of complaints about the media, with many accusing journalists of a republican bias. Only 44 per cent believe the wider Protestant/unionist community understand them.
The survey also showed a glimpse of the Order’s rural/urban split, with one member telling researchers: “No matter how we create good relations in Fermanagh we will always be let down by the hooligans in Belfast who tarnish our reputation.”
The survey was run with the aim of improving relations in the Fermanagh area.