Thursday, May 7, 1998 Published at 07:59 GMT 08:59 UK
Inside the Orange Order
- The Orange Order, also known as the Loyal Orange Institution, is the largest Protestant organisation in Northern Ireland, where it has a membership of 60,000-80,000.
- Members belong to lodges, which are based on those of the Masonic Order. Orange lodges exist not only in Northern Ireland. They are also found in the Republic of Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the USA and West Africa.
- The order was founded in 1795 after a Protestant victory at Loughgall, County Armagh, in what became known as the Battle of the Diamond. The Orange Order's name was chosen to commemorate the victory of Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James in the Battle of the Boyne on July 12, 1690.
- The Orange Order sends 102 delegates to the 860-strong Ulster Unionist Council. The order has rejected the all-party peace agreement in Northern Ireland and has urged its thousands of members to vote no to the deal in the May referendum.
- One of the traditional aims of the Orange Order is to maintain Protestant ascendancy in Northern Ireland. It holds annual parades to show its allegiance to the crown and Protestant beliefs.
- The other main marching organisation in Northern Ireland is the Apprentice Boys of Derry, which was also established in the 18th century.
It takes its name from the 13 boys who closed the gates of Londonderry against King James's army in 1688 and withstood an eight-month siege.
- The Orange Order and the Apprentice Boys say marching is an essential part of Protestant culture. The routes they take were established long ago, but some of the areas have since been subject to demographic changes, with Protestants moving out and Catholics moving in. In recent years, the marches have caused much tension and violence in Catholic areas such as Portadown's Garvaghy estate and Belfast's Lower Ormeau Road.
The processions take place from Easter and throughout the summer. The marchers traditionally wear bowler hats and orange sashes. They carry banners and are often accompanied by brass bands. The climax of the marching season is July 12, when huge bonfires are lit in loyalist areas throughout Northern Ireland.
- The Orange Order acts as the focal point for many people's social lives in Northern Ireland. It is through the lodges that meetings, lectures, band practice and social events like dances are organised. There are also junior lodges and women's lodges.
- Lodges traditionally have monthly meetings, to which entry is sometimes by secret password. The gatherings begin with prayers or bible readings and conclude with the singing of God Save the Queen.