The Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Rev Mervyn Gibson, used a speech at Donemana to accuse republicans of not only rewriting history, but trying to “re-invent the English language” itself.
The prominent loyalist figure, former RUC officer and Presbyterian clergyman also went on to add his voice to condemnation of MPs’ decision this week to impose liberalised abortion law and gay marriage on Northern Ireland unless devolution is restored – saying the order values “all human life from the womb to the tomb”.
In recent days the Rev Gibson has been outspoken in defending the bonfire in the Avoniel neighbourhood of east Belfast which was threatened with council demolition.
And in his wide-ranging speech, he returned to the theme of challenges faced by unionist culture, repeating a demand that the Parades Commission be sacked wholesale along with the “failed, biased, discriminatory” legislation which underpins it.
And on the theme of the Troubles, he said: “Republicans are attempting to rewrite history; their struggle was about civil rights, rather than a dirty, sordid, cowardly terrorist campaign ...
“Telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth is an alien concept to republicans. They want their truth – truth on their terms.”
He added: “If history portrays them for what they were – terrorists – then rewrite the history and reinvent the English language.”
It was noted that the security forces have enjoyed no amnesty of the kind which has de facto been given to many terrorists, adding that “the Orange Institution unapologetically supports our security forces and we pay tribute to their service and sacrifice”.
He also made reference to a recent news story, covered by the News Letter, about Tyrone GAA players bursting into song on their bus while a loyalist parade took place outside the static vehicle.
The song, Come Out You Black And Tans, glorifies the IRA, and the incident drew an apology from Tyrone GAA boss Mickey Harte.
The singing “could have led to an incident of a serious nature”, said Rev Gibson, adding that it “demands a police investigation”.
And on the subject of the recent Westminster developments on marriage and abortion, Rev Gibson said: “The world may have moved from God’s word on these matters, but the Orange Institution remains committed to the whole counsel of scripture – there can be no ambiguity.
“October 21 will be a sad day for Northern Ireland if there is no Assembly in place; it will show that both lives don’t matter, a child in the womb will become a mere medical procedure, God’s ordained purpose of marriage will be thwarted ... Sadly, some changes are inevitable, so it is important that we respond to such moral changes with compassion and grace.
“We may not agree with these new changes, but our response must be that of Christ – love and compassionate action, not mere condemnation and criticism.”
When it came to the parade itself in the west Tyrone village, around 50 lodges and a similar number of bands took part.
A total of six districts with lodges representing Killen, Sixmilecross, Fintona, Newtownstewart, Omagh, and Strabane were on parade.
This year also saw street performers incorporated into proceedings including Lambeg drums, highland dancers and much more.
The main parade left the assembly field on the Longland Road at 12.30pm and proceeded to the Berryhill Road where the demonstration field was located.
Speaking with Rev Gibson was Brother Derek Reaney, assistant grand master, and the religious service was conducted by Co Tyrone Grand Chaplain, Brother Rev David Reid, assisted by Brother Rev Alan Irwin.
William Scanlon, secretary of Bready LOL334 and Strabane district secretary, said: “Everything was 100%. Everybody had a fantastic day. There was a bit of rain, but it didn’t dampen anybody’s spirits.”