Writing in our supplement today on murdered Orange brethren, the Grand Master Edward Stevenson talks about the Order’s profound sadness as it remembers those 336 victims of terrorism.
He also says that, conversely, that the inaugural Orange Victims Day is a moment of “immense pride” as the institution “contemplates the bravery of those who put others before themselves in the darkest days of Northern Ireland”.
On a smaller scale, it is also today with sadness and pride that the News Letter plays its part in remembering the dead with our eight-page supplement on them.
The Orange Victims Day, which is on Saturday (September 1), is an annual event to honour and remember the murdered and to highlight the needs of survivors. Mr Stevenson points out that the chosen date for Orange Victims Day coincides with the 1975 Tullyvallen Orange hall sectarian massacre in south Armagh, on September 1 of that year.
The Order was for decades one of the targets of terror, and is latterly target of a culture war, by profoundly sectarian people who, without irony, accuse it of being sectarian. But the resilience of the institution is evident in Tyrone, the county in which Mr Stevenson lives, which saw 85 Orange members murdered including the UDR corporal, Heather Kerrigan.
It is sobering to think that as recently as 2012, republican terrorists murdered an Orangeman, the prison officer David Black — a vicious attack for which no-one has been convicted.
The establishment of Orange Victims Day comes at a key moment for Northern Ireland, amid proposals to deal with the contested legacy of the past.
Mr Stevenson describes as “stark” the statistic that almost 10% of the Troubles dead were Orange members. But as the ex detective Norman Baxter said in our legacy essay series, a hierarchy of victims has some terror victims at the bottom and no ‘human rights’ lawyers offering to help their families.
Today we remember a group of those dead.