Text of the address made by the Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, at Ballymacarrett Orange hall, Belfast, today.
“The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland welcomes the support and co-operation of the broad Unionist family in standing against the ongoing threats of Republican violence and the intolerance of those who seek to curtail expressions of our British identity and parading tradition.
“There is also evidently unanimous backing for a reinvigorated campaign against the inept Parades Commission; confirmed by the unity of purpose and high attendance at our emergency meeting last evening.
“The time has come for all Unionists to stand up and be counted.
“We seek a future where there is toleration and respect, where shared space means shared and where parity of esteem is not a hollow sound bite.
“While our future within the United Kingdom is assured, there is a continuing agitation and hollowing out of Ulster Britishness.
“This must stop if people are genuinely committed to a stable, prosperous and peaceful Northern Ireland.
“There are many issues to be addressed as we go forward and there will be differences of opinion within Unionism how we deal with these; however, there is unanimous agreement that the current politics of cultural agitation must stop, if a firm foundation for the future is to be laid.
“To this end the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland will in partnership with the Unionist family, embark on a course of action that will see democracy and cultural tolerance become the corner stones of society where the threat of violence or the echo of terrorism no longer stifle progress and stability.
“The only thing that will trump such ongoing activities is effective peaceful and lawful protest.
“If your view of protest is violence or if you seek to cause agitation within Unionism, please stay away from our protests.
“One stone thrown will undermine the peaceful protests at Twaddell over the last 12 months and for the past 16 years each Sunday at Drumcree.
“In furtherance of this, we today launch a pledge that we hope all Unionists will sign up to committing ourselves to this cause by lawful and peaceful actions.
“I can also announce on the Twelfth Day a series of activities that will show we are fully behind our Brethren, Sisters, Bands and supporters at Ligoniel, Drumcree and other places where opposition is experienced.
“Each main demonstration will stop for a period of six minutes, the length of time it takes the Ligoniel parade to walk along the Crumlin Road. At this stoppage a statement will be read, outlining our objections to the Parades Commission.
“An emergency resolution will be proposed from the Platform committing this Institution to the task in hand and calling the Province to prayer.
“In the evening a number of peaceful protest parades will take place around the Province; however, these will not be in contentious areas.
“After these parades we call on all our members and supporters to disperse peacefully and prepare to welcome further political action and support our campaign in the weeks ahead.
“Leadership is being shown by Unionism standing shoulder to shoulder against intolerance. Let us all put our differences aside and support one another in this common cause.
“The Unionist people will be unforgiving of anyone who seeks to destroy the co-operation we display today.
“I trust and pray we will have a glorious and peaceful Battle of the Boyne celebrations.
“To those on parade who face opposition on Saturday, you have the assurance that you have our full support, indeed our support for you will increase in the coming days, as we look forward to a time when our traditional celebrations will proceed unhindered.
“I again thank all present for attending and look forward to working together in the weeks ahead.
“United we stand divided we fall.”