Members of the Orange Institution murdered during the Troubles were remembered at a series of commemorative events at the weekend.
The inaugural Orange Victims Day, held on Saturday, paid tribute tothe 335 Orangemen and one Orangewoman murdered by terrorists.
Leading various acts of remembrance was Grand Master Edward Stevenson, who laid a wreath and paid his respects at the Institution’s memorial window at Schomberg House in Belfast during a short religious service. A display of 336 crosses, one for each individual victim, was also laid at the memorial garden at Orange headquarters.
Elsewhere, other activities took place in every county in Northern Ireland, including memorial parades in Portadown and Kilkeel; the launch of a garden of remembrance at Burnside Orange hall, Antrim; and a remembrance display in Enniskillen.
Poignantly, members of Tullyvallen lodge held an act of remembrance at their south Armagh hall tocoincide with the time of an IRA terror attack, 43 years ago. On September 1, 1975, republican gunmen stormed into a lodge meeting, and indiscriminately murdered four Orangemen. A fifth member subsequently died later as a result of the injuries sustained.
Meanwhile, many Orange halls displayed flags at half-mast as a mark of respect.
Mr Stevenson confirmed the day of remembrance would become an annual event, also highlighting the ongoing plight of the injured and bereaved.
He said: “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.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 was therefore with great sadness and pride; the Institution rightly remembered our members who lost their lives at various memorial events across Northern Ireland.”
Mr Stevenson continued: “The majority of our brethren 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.”
He added: “We will never forget their sacrifice.”