The deputy grand master of the Orange Order has paid tribute to Orangemen from across the Province who died in the trenches of Europe, and to those killed by republicans during the Troubles.
Harold Henning also spoke of how Northern Ireland punches far above its weight in terms of its contribution to the armed forces.
He quoted Edward Carson, saying that the anti-Home Rule advocate had declared, on the Twelfth of July 1918: “I believe that throughout the whole of this war wherever Orangemen have been found they have been in the forefront of duty, ever willing to give a hand to bring about a successful conclusion to the war.”
Mr Henning said he recalled “with solemn pride the estimated 200,000 Orangemen and women who served during the course of the Great War”, adding that the Institution’s contribution to the Allied effort was “truly immense”
“Stable boys, tram drivers, mechanics, shopkeepers, farmers, MPs and others all joined up to serve for King and country,” he said.
“Proud Orangemen and volunteers who fought courageously alongside their fellow soldiers from the Roman Catholic and nationalist traditions, and those of no faith at all, at the front line of the Somme and other theatres of war.”
He went on to pay tribute to the 336 Orange members killed during the Troubles, many of whom were members of the police, prison service or military, and reflected on “the proud military heritage of Northern Ireland”.
He said: “Indeed, our Province makes up only 3% of the entire UK population, yet currently represents 7% of Army personnel. A fascinating statistic which, yet again, underlines our undisputed track record in terms of active service.
“Many of our own members have served and continue to serve with the Armed Forces with distinction, and we are rightly proud of their endeavours.
“Over numerous decades, we salute the collective bravery of all those who voluntarily chose to bear arms in the defence of the freedoms we enjoy, and take for granted, today.
“Whatever challenges lie ahead in the next century; 100 years on let us stand secure in their memory, as we remember them all.”
He was speaking at a gathering on Saturday at the Museum of Orange Heritage (Schomberg House) in the Castlereagh area, on the south-eastern side of Belfast.