Orange Twelfth message: Union is in peril as never before

Northern Ireland’s place in the UK is at greater risk now than at any time in the last 100 years, one of the leaders of the Orange Order has declared.

By Adam Kula
Sunday, 11th July 2021, 10:10 am
Updated Sunday, 11th July 2021, 10:47 am
Anti-Anglo Irish Treaty protest in central Belfast, November 1986
Anti-Anglo Irish Treaty protest in central Belfast, November 1986

The remarks from Rev Mervyn Gibson – carried in full at the link below – stress the need for the Northern Ireland Brexit Protocol to be utterly scrapped, not merely modified.

The Protocol essentially keeps Northern Ireland under certain EU rules, even though the rest of the UK has quit the bloc, and is blamed for having created a de facto border in the Irish Sea – despite denials of this from the Westminster government.

Rev Gibson’s comments were drawn up in the hope that he could deliver them in an address to crowds at the Twelfth; however, this year’s festivities remain somewhat scaled-down while the remnants of coronavirus peter out.

In addition, Grand Master Edward Stevenson and his deputy Harold Henning likewise penned speeches for the occasion, touching on Northern Ireland’s centenary, and upon the legacy of the Troubles.

Rev Gibson’s comments are stark.

“The Protocol poses the greatest threat to the unity of the United Kingdom since 1921 and Northern Ireland’s place with it,” he says.

“It is holed below the waterline, and needs to go.”

This places the Protocol ahead of the 1973 Sunningdale Agreement (loathed by unionists because it would have created a cross-border Council of Ireland, with a consultative role for Dublin in the Province’s affairs) in terms of the danger it poses to the Union.

It also places it ahead of the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 (which sparked similar rage for similar reasons), and the entire IRA campaign throughout the Troubles.

“We saw off a squalid terrorist campaign to force us into a United Ireland,” writes Rev Gibson.

“We will not be legislated into one, nor tolerate our freedoms being restricted.”

This echoes DUP chairman Lord Morrow, who in April told the News Letter that today’s crisis is “of equal seriousness” as Sunningdale and the Angle-Irish deal.

And in May, Rev Gibson said in an interview with this paper that the DUP leadership must fight the Protocol “if it takes bringing down the Assembly”.


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