The Orange Order has launched an appeal to raise funds for a permanent memorial to its members killed during the Troubles.
The Institution plans to commission a stained glass window at its revamped Belfast headquarters, Schomberg House, as a tribute to the 332 brethren – many of whom served in the security forces – who were murdered during the Troubles.
In a bid to raise the funds, the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland has produced specially-designed badges which will be made available to members and the wider public.
The fundraising initiative was launched on Thursday by Grand Master Edward Stevenson at Tullyvallen Orange hall – scene of the most notorious massacre inflicted on the Institution by republican terrorists.
In September 1975, IRA gunmen stormed into the rural south Armagh property during a lodge meeting and indiscriminately murdered four Orangemen. A fifth member subsequently died later as a result of the injuries sustained.
Mr Stevenson said: “Many of our members bravely wore the uniform of the security forces; protecting the community, and lost their lives or were maimed in their courageous stand against terrorism. Others were simply targeted for being a member of the Orange Institution.
“We owe a special debt of gratitude to those who gave their lives, their families and those who still carry the burden of physical and mental injuries. We will always remember them.”
He said the proposed memorial window “will visibly honour the sacrifice of our murdered brethren and permanently preserve their memories for generations to come”.
Among those in attendance at the launch was survivor of the atrocity, Berry Reaney, as well as relatives of murdered Orangemen and brethren from across the Province. Chairman of the murdered brethren memorial committee, Robert Abernethy, said: “It is particularly poignant that the new memorial fund has been launched at Tullyvallen, synonymous with one of the most high-profile atrocities inflicted on Orangeism.
“Despite the barbarity and relentless genocide of republican terrorism, the Institution remained unbroken and it is therefore appropriate that we continue to honour all those Orangemen who lost their lives.”
Money raised through the fund-raising initiative will go towards other projects for inclusion in the museum as well as the publication of a new book, highlighting the loss suffered by the Institution during the Troubles. A donation will also be made to the Royal British Legion.
The design carried on the lapel memorial badge depicts a cross – the global symbol of war graves – and also features an orange lily, which is surrounded by red poppies. The badges, costing £3 each, are available for purchase at Grand Lodge headquarters or via the Institution’s website at www.grandorangelodge.co.uk