Thousands of Orangemen took part in the annual Twelfth parade in Rossnowlagh, Co Donegal on Saturday in glorious sunshine.
Fifty Orange lodges from Donegal, Cavan, Leitrim and Monaghan, as well as visiting Orangemen, took part in the annual Twelfth parade which is traditionally held three days before the main demonstrations in Northern Ireland.
County Grand Master David Mahon said: “Thousands enjoyed the Rossnowlagh parade on Saturday, as they do every year. The rain stayed away and it was a real family occasion.”
Assistant Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland Lewis Singleton, speaking against the backdrop of the Donegal hills and the rolling breakers of the Atlantic, told assembled Orangemen: “The religious component of Orangeism is well known – however, what is not as well publicised is the vital fraternal aspect of our organisation.
“This is not only within our own membership, but also involving the wider community.
“This is apparent through a number of well-established bursary schemes.
“These have been of most benefit to the widows and children of our members directly affected by the Troubles, but also of great assistance from an educational perspective for our young people.”
Referring to the role of the Institution and individual lodges in today’s society and in their local communities, he said: “Firstly, our halls have to be available and used for the benefit of the wider community.
“That was always the tradition up until the Troubles, and increasingly it has become commonplace again today.
“Secondly, we need to be proactive in our local communities and that means becoming involved in local issues.”
He said the Orange Order and its properties need to “become the focal point for communities” where communities “look towards the Institution for leadership of a positive nature”.
“Parades alone are not enough,” he added.
“We are a parading Institution but if we are solely about a few processions, particularly at this time of the year, then we are failing our community. There has to be much more than that.
“And where there is much more than that, the Institution is flourishing.”
He added: “Currently our properties across Northern Ireland, and here in the border counties, host a wide array of activities and groups including pensioner clubs; birthday parties; educational, first aid and computer classes; and musical groups.
He added: “We are a vibrant fraternal organisation and young people in our community continue to look to the Orange Institution for leadership.
“We must remain fully equipped and fit for purpose to meet that challenge going forward in 2016 and beyond.”
Donegal recently formed its first junior lodge, Sir Albert Conyngham JLOL No 12, based in the south of the county.
There are 44 Orange halls in Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan and Leitrim and the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland has members in nine counties in the Republic.