The Orange Order will continue to thrive despite the “black propaganda” of republicans, one of its leaders has said.
Grand Secretary Drew Nelson said attempts by Sinn Fein to link the Order with the UVF were part of a hate campaign.
Speaking last night at the reopening of Seagoe Orange Hall in Portadown – which was destroyed in a 2007 arson attack – Mr Nelson said: “We believe that Martin McGuinness’s vitriolic attack on the Institution last night should not be seen in isolation, but forms part of the republican movement’s continuing vilification of the Orange Order.
“When the republican movement declared a ceasefire in 1997, it claimed its war against the British administration was over.
“Since that ceasefire, 205 Orange halls have been attacked and our parades consistently opposed. I have to ask, is the republican movement’s long war against the Orange Order over?”
Mr Nelson said the 2007 arson “was not an isolated attack” and added: “I am clear it was part of a well organised and centrally directed campaign by the republican movement to attack the Orange Institution, its members, its parades and its property. Since 1969, there have been over 350 arson attacks on Orange halls by the republican movement. What is striking, however, is that very few of these attacks happened during what most people regard as the height of the Troubles – the 1970s and 1980s.
“In the late 1980s, for some reason, the republican movement turned their attention to the Orange Order. They started to organise their opposition to our parades and to burn our Orange halls.”