IN FULL: Protocol is Union’s gravest threat for 100 years
The following is the full, unedited address which Rev Gibson had prepared, in the hope of delivering it during a full-scale Twelfth (postponed until next year while the pandemic peters out):
As we parade and gather in our traditional commemoration of that glorious victory at the Battle of the Boyne which ensured our freedom in 1690, we do so in the knowledge that there is another major battle on the horizon that must be won.
Once the music dies down and the banners are rolled up, the attention over the coming months will turn to the battle against the Northern Ireland Protocol
Make no mistake: the Protocol must be removed!
The Protocol poses the greatest threat to the unity of the United Kingdom since 1921 and Northern Ireland’s place with it.
The Orange Institution has been a strong opponent of this deal that threatens our very existence.
We have made the views of Unionism known directly to Brandon Lewis MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Lord Frost, and Maros Sefcovic, Vice President of the European Commission.
In addition, members have spoken to their locally-elected representatives about the anger in their communities and local protests have been held.
Initially we were ignored and now we get vague indications Westminster and Europe understand our ‘feelings’.
However, let me make it abundantly clear: hollow promises and delaying the impact of this treacherous legislation will not suffice.
It is holed below the waterline and needs to go.
When solutions have been offered, they are dismissed as not workable. We are told there is no alternative; there are always alternatives if the will is there to find them.
The first face-to-face Grand Lodge meeting held since lockdown devoted considerable time to what needs to be done to support the political pressure needed to remove the Protocol.
This Institution, along with fellow Unionists, will not be found wanting in applying that pressure.
The coming months are not a period for autopsies; there will be time enough for those in the future.
The efforts of the Orange Institution and the wider Unionist family must be directed at constantly articulating the dangers the Protocol poses and showing Europe – and not least the Republic of Ireland– that there will be consequences as long as the Protocol remains.
We will not be dictated to – nor our British way of life manipulated by – foreign powers.
The United Kingdom has left Europe.
Our forefathers fought for our freedom at the Boyne, indeed the freedom of all people; the sacrifice at the Somme and the storming of the Normandy beaches saw this country securing the freedom of Europe.
We saw off a squalid terrorist campaign to force us into a United Ireland.
We will not be legislated into one nor tolerate our freedoms being restricted.
This generation will not stand by and let our future be dictated to us by the treacherous Protocol.
I urge you all to leave this field today prepared to fully support a campaign to see us rid of it and then let us look forward with confidence to another 100 years as British citizens.
Lord Carson’s words at the Craigavon demonstration in 1911 still ring true today: “We ask for no special rights, but we claim the same rights from the government as every other part of the United Kingdom.
“We ask for nothing more – we will take nothing less.”
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