Since its formation, the Orange Institution has had a proud record of service and sacrifice.
During the period now somewhat benignly referred to as ‘the troubles’ a high proportion of our members served in the security forces during a 40-year terrorist campaign.
Some 339 members were murdered during these years – almost 10% of all those who lost their lives. The youngest victim was 18 years-old, the eldest aged 86. Nearly half of our murdered members were serving, or had served, with the Ulster Defence Regiment; while a quarter were current or former members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
More than 600 children were bereaved as the result of the loss of a parent who was a member of the Orange Institution.
In addition to those murdered, many hundreds of our members have suffered life-changing physical, mental and emotional injuries as a direct consequence of the terrorist campaign. Sadly, a substantial number of these murders and attacks on our members remain unsolved.
Whilst more than half of those killed were singled out because they were serving their community in the security forces, others were targeted simply because they were Protestants and members of the Orange Institution.
Countless tragic personal stories litter the history of Orangeism in the past 50 years. The most recent was the murder of Brother David Black, a serving member of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, by Republicans on 1st November 2012. His family, like so many more, are still left without justice.
The Orange Institution is resolute in its conviction that there must be no equivalence made between these innocent victims and the terrorists - who were the victim-makers.
In 2007, Grand Lodge formed the ‘Murdered Brethren Committee’ to begin the process of creating a permanent memorial to our slain members. In 2011, a Memorial Stone was unveiled at our headquarters at Schomberg House. The inscription reads: “In proud remembrance of all brethren and sisters who were murdered, or otherwise lost their lives, due to the terrorist campaign in Ulster”.
In 2014, a Memorial Window was commissioned for inclusion in the new Museum of Orange Heritage. The window is situated alongside a digitised memorial book which pays tribute to all our murdered members. In 2015, Grand Lodge produced a moving film entitled ‘Strong to Survive,’ which tells the story of some of those murdered. It also features interviews with surviving members who explain how the terrorist campaign affected them personally. Yet for those left to grieve, memorials and remembrance events, however important, are no substitute for justice.
Last year, the Institution formally designated 1st September as ‘Orange Victims Day’ – a day when the Orange family pauses to remember those who were so suddenly and violently taken from us. The date also marks the Institution’s largest single loss of life when in 1975, IRA gunmen stormed into Tullyvallen Orange Hall, in rural South Armagh, during a lodge meeting, and indiscriminately murdered four Orangemen. A fifth member subsequently died later as a result of the injuries sustained.
This year, the Orange community will once again mark Orange Victims Day with a range of poignant events in villages and towns across Northern Ireland to ensure that our murdered brethren are never forgotten.
Iain Carlisle, chief executive of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland