Members of the Orange Order murdered during the Trouble have been remembered at a series of commemorative events over the weekend.
The second annual Orange ‘victims’ day’ brought together friends, relatives and former colleagues of the 338 Orangemen and one Orangewoman who were killed – the majority members of the security forces – to honour their sacrifice.
The commemorations also served to highlight the ongoing plight of those who have been adversely affected by the acts of terrorism.
Grand Master Edward Stevenson led the acts of remembrance last week by laying a wreath and paying his respects at the institution’s memorial window at Schomberg House in Belfast.
The September 1 date has been chosen as it will forever be associated with a 1975 IRA gun attack on a south Armagh Orange hall which claimed the lives of five Orangemen.
Four brethren were murdered at the Tullyvallen hall with a fifth later dying from his injuries.
Mr Stevenson described the victims’ day as one of “remembrance and reflection” for the Orange family, while aspiring to give “hope for the future” for those bereaved and injured.
“When I was elected grand master, I made a pledge that the innocent victims of the Troubles and their families would remain a key priority for the Orange Institution.
“The continuation of our designated victims’ day is a public demonstration of that promise,” he said.
A display of 339 crosses, one for each member of the Order who died, has also been laid in the memorial garden at Orange headquarters.
Other events took place across every county in Northern Ireland, with many Orange halls flying flags at half-mast as a mark of respect.
In Loughgall, Co Armagh, a service of reflection was held at Sloan’s House in conjunction with the group Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (FAIR).
In Co Down, Lower Iveagh District LOL No1 held a similar service in the grounds of Dromore Orange Hall, including the laying of a wreath at the Herron family memorial plaque on the boundary wall of the hall.
In Portadown, there was a short act of remembrance and a wreath laying at the town’s war memorial, with a parade from Carleton Street headed by the Edgarstown Accordion Band.
A stone, bearing the names of 13 victims, was also unveiled and dedicated on the outside wall of Killen Orange Hall in Co Tyrone by Killen District LOL No 12.
Among the 13 names is that of Sister Heather Kerrigan – the only female member of the Orange Order to be murdered during the terrorist campaign.
At Bangor Orange hall, a mirror in memory of John McCready was unveiled. Mr McCready was murdered in a random north Belfast sectarian shooting in 1976.
Grand Master Mr Stevenson said the annual day of remembrance would continue to highlight the plight of the injured and bereaved.
“It is a stark and harrowing statistic that almost 10 per cent of all those killed throughout the four decades of the Troubles were members of the Orange Institution,” he said.
“In addition to those murdered, many hundreds of Orange members, and their relatives, were left with life-changing physical, mental and emotional injuries because of the terrorist campaign.
“It is therefore with great sadness and pride; the Institution rightly remembers our members who lost their lives at various memorial events across Northern Ireland.”
Mr Stevenson went on to say: “The majority of those served with the security forces and paid the ultimate price with their life, as they sought to protect the wider community from the monstrous actions and activities of terrorists. Many others were targeted and murdered, simply because they were Protestant and Orangemen. We will never forget their sacrifice.”
At 7.30pm tonight there will be a screening of the Grand Orange Lodge documentary ‘Strong To Survive,’ followed by a talk from victims’ campaigner Sammy Heenan in Cranfield Orange Hall, Co Down.