Page last updated at 11:42 GMT, Tuesday, 30 June 2009 12:42 UK

Orange Order members 'in decline'

The Orange Order has seen a sharp decline in its membership

The Orange Order has blamed an increase in secularism for a sharp decline in its membership in Northern Ireland.

Grand Secretary Drew Nelson said its Christian ethos was one reason behind its membership falling from 76,500 in 1948 to about 35,700 currently.

Mr Nelson said the Order was suffering from the same trend as churches as people turned away from religion.

"For a while now Northern Ireland has been becoming an increasingly secular society," he said.

"As an organisation which encourages our members to be church-going, that has attracted less members," he said.

"Secondly, there's the whole ethos of the state in Northern Ireland - it appears to be leaning somewhat against the Orange Order."

Mr Nelson pointed towards the fact that Order members who were employed by the PSNI had to inform their superiors.

He said this meant many people were put off joining the organisation, which claims to have 100,000 members worldwide.

However, he said despite falling numbers many young people in Northern Ireland were still choosing to join the Orange Order.

"I think if you look a bit closer amongst the Protestant community there's a certain disaffection," he said.

"Young people are feeling a need to join a band or the Orange Order as an activity of Britishness and Protestantism, and also a reaction to what they feel is the establishment in Northern Ireland against them."

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