The ultimate sacrifice of Ulstermen and women both at home and abroad has been remembered at a special Orange Order event in Belfast.
Addressing the service at Schomberg House yesterday, Grand Master Edward Stevenson said it was an honour and a privilege to mark Armistice Day with an act of remembrance, as well as reflecting on more recent deaths as a result of terrorist activity.
“We especially remember the fallen of two World Wars, and more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, who have died many thousands of miles away from home. Among them many Ulstermen and women who gave their lives not only to protect this country, but also in the interests of democracy across the world,” he said.
“We think particularly of those who wore the uniform of our armed services, the police and other law enforcement agencies.
“These brave personnel ensured anarchy did not prevail on our streets by courageously resisting the threat posed by terrorists, many paying with their lives for the greater good.”
Remembering the many members of the Orange Order murdered since 1968, Mr Stevenson said: “We pay tribute to the 337 members of our loyal Institution who were callously murdered throughout the Troubles.
“The crime of the vast majority of our brethren – in the eyes of republicans – was to don the uniform of their country in response to a vile terrorist campaign.
“Others were simply targeted for being in possession of an Orange collarette.”
Mr Stevenson said the recent “nauseating glorification of terror” by republicans who paraded in Castlederg – and by those who erected a plaque to Shankill bomber Thomas Begley – was an “insult to the memory” of terror victims.
He said: “We pay our respects to all those who have lost their lives when answering the call of duty. Not just Orangemen and women, but all Protestants, Roman Catholics, those of any faith and those of no faith at all.
“We salute every one of them for their courage, professionalism and selfless sacrifice.
“We will always remember them.”
Armistice Day was also marked in cities, towns and villages across the Province yesterday – including Lisburn, where a crowd gathered at 11am at the war memorial to pay their respects to the fallen.