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Orange Order

The Orange Order is an exclusively Protestant fraternal organization largely based in the United Kingdom which also has a worldwide membership. Its role in Northern Ireland, and its anti-catholicism, has earned for it the reputation of being controversial.

Table of contents
1 History and Origins
2 The effects of the 'Glorious Revolution' on the Orange Order
3 The Twelfth
4 Ban on Catholics
5 Political links
6 The Orange Order in Canada

History and Origins

The Orange was founded was founded in Ahoghill in Ireland in 1795 after the so-called "Battle of the Diamond" (a pitched battle between rival guilds based along sectarian lines over trading rights). It was named to commemorate the victory of the protestant William of Orange over his father-in-law the Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Some consider that victory to have laid the foundation for the evolution of constitutional democracy in what later became the United Kingdom, by strengthening the power of parliament against the crown and by confining finally to history the concept of Divine Right of Kings. Others see it as an unconstitutional coup d'etat that produced centuries of constitutional and legal discrimination against Roman Catholics, undoing James II's policy of religious toleration.

Change in order of succession

The victory of William over James, which produced what became known as the Glorious Revolution was significant both inside and outside the Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland, over which the controversial James II had ruled. Within all three kingdoms it led to a change in the order of succession that replaced the catholic King James and his catholic baby son by James's protestant daughter Mary II and her husband, the Prince of Orange, now King William III. No catholic would ever allowed to become monarch and within a short time members of the Royal Family were legally barred from becomng a catholic or marrying a catholic.

Increase in power of parliament

Politically, it led to a substantial increase in the power of the English (later British) parliament against the monarchy and crown, as William and Mary owed their succession not to primogeniture or inheritance (the normal means of inheriting the throne) but to parliament's decision to declare the throne vacant and offer the throne conditionally to the co-monarchs. The Bill of Rights enshrined the principles of the supremacy of parliament and of protestantism over catholicism. Its latter effect has led it to be seen as a step along the road towards parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy in the later United Kingdom.

International effects

Internationally William's victory over James had major political repercussions. It was seen as the first proper victory in battle for the League of Augsburg, the first ever alliance between Catholic & Protestant countries. William's victory was celebrated in Rome by Pope Innocent XI who ordered the singing of Te Deums in the city's major catholic churches. James's defeat was seen internationally as a defeat for James's major supporter, Europe's then major figure, the King of France.

The effects of the 'Glorious Revolution' on the Orange Order

For the Orange Order, the Glorious Revolution remains central to its appeal. It stresses the importance of the 'protestant succession' to the throne and of the triumph of parliament and its Bill of Rights and Act of Settlement as the embodiment of that that triumph. It celebrates the victory of William over James every year on 12 July.

The Twelfth

The Twelfth however remains a deeply divisive issue, not least because of allegations of "triumphalism" and "anti-catholicism" against the Orange Order in the conduct of its marches and criticism of its behaviour towards Roman Catholicism. Yet ironically most Orange Order marches in Ireland are uncontroversial; marches in the Republic of Ireland, notably in County Donegal, require minimal policing and attract non-Orange Order members, almost all Roman Catholic, to watch. However at a few flashpoints, marches have become highly controversial. To Orange Order members, the right to march anywhere on the "Queen's highway" is of fundamental importance in upholding the principles of the "Glorious Revolution". To critics, their demand to walk anywhere, even through catholic areas, is seen as "provocative", "triumphalist" and "supremacist". In addition changing geographic and religious boundaries compound problems. A classic example occurred throughout the 1990s at Garvaghy Road on the outskirts of Portadown. The Orange Order had marched the same route through open countryside for nearly two centuries. In a religiously divided Portadown, Catholics came to reside in large working clas housing estates built on fields along the Orange Order marching route. Each side demanded that their community's "rights" get priority. To the Order, that meant upholding their "right" to march their traditional route along that roadway. To nationalists and republicans, that meant the "right" to insist that, having been forced to live on the outskirts of the largely protestant town, they should not have the anti-catholic Orange Order parading down the main roadway through the new catholic area.

Ban on Catholics

Orange Order members face the threat of expulsion for attending any Roman Catholic religious ceremonies. When in the late 1990s Ulster Unionist Party leader and Northern Ireland First Minister-designate, David Trimble representing Northern Ireland attended the funeral Mass for a child murdered in a Real IRA bombing, there were demands that he be expelled by the Orange Order for attending a "Papist ceremony".

Political links

The Orange Order has strong ties with the Ulster Unionist Party, although changes in the party's membership structure mean it is fast losing its grip: for example, a former Grandmaster of the Orange Order, the Reverend Martin Smyth, and the current deputy Grandmaster, Geoffrey Donaldson, faced the threat of expulsion from the UUP. However the Order still has a large block vote on the UUP's governing Ulster Unionist Council.

There are two related organisations, the increasingly left-wing militant Apprentice Boys of Derry (named ironically after Catholic guild apprentices who refused entry and held off a besieging French army from entering Derry), whose foundations lie in urban working-class Protestant communities, and the Royal Black Preceptry. The latter has been the most willing of the marching groups not to enter so-called "Catholic" areas. Instead they march to the start of any contentious road, the lodge master shake hands with a waiting representative of the local community - usually the Chair of the local Residents Association. There is some dispute as to the RBP's origins, some suggesting that they are descended from the remenants of the Knights of the Order of St John.

The Orange Order in Canada

The Orange Order played an important role in the history of Canada where it was established in 1830. Most early members were from Ireland, but later many English, Scots, and other Protestant Europeans joined the Order. There were also Mohawk Lodges in set up in Ontario.

It was the chief social institution in Upper Canada (today's southern Ontario) and organized many community and benevolent activities. It also helped Protestant immigrants settle. The Order remained a predominant political force in southern Ontario well into the twentieth century. A notable exception to Orange predominance occurred in London, Ontario, where Catholic and Protestant Irish formed a non-sectarian Irish society in 1877.

The Orange Order played an important role in the crisis over the 1885 trial of Louis Riel for treason. The Canadian prime minister of the day, Sir John A. Macdonald is believed to have refused to commute Riel's death sentence because he calculated that there were more Orange votes to be got by hanging Riel than there were Quebec votes to be got by sparing him. He is famously quoted as saying "Riel must die though every dog in Quebec bark in his favour." This and similar interventions of the Orange Order in Canadian politics helped create the bitter divisions between French and English which characterize Canadian politics to this day.

Autonomous Grand Lodges are found in Ireland, Scotland, England, the United States, West Africa, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.