In his address the Platform chairman, Rt Wor Bro George Duddy, commended the building of interpretive centres at Schomberg and Sloan’s House, saying they would help tell the real story of Orange history, culture and heritage.
Condemning the past atrocities by Republican paramilitaries, Mr Duddy claimed it was apparent there was a lack of willing to challenge SF/IRA and he told the Brethren that the Orange Institution “must never ever allow what happened over the last almost 50 years, to be air brushed out of history”.
“We must never forget the past nor the sacrifice many paid. We must never forget that the Orange family has been subjected to some of the most horrendous types of attacks over many years,” he said.
“If anyone believes, we the protestant people feature in a shared future with republicans or nationalists, they are gravely mistaken. If you believe we will be treated equally by republicans or nationalists again you are gravely mistaken.
“We have brethren throughout Northern Ireland who are still being denied their civil and religious liberties, 325 years after the Battle of the Boyne. A battle which was fought to establish those very rights for everyone.
“Republicans believe if they can defeat the Orange Order, they will be well on their way to achieving their goals, and they are continuing to target our Orange halls, our community and our parades to do it.
Urging the Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist groups to form a strong bond, Mr Duddy said the Grand Lodge had to formulate their own robust parading strategies and responses to parading issues wherever they occur and called on the Institution to stop waiting for politicians for advice what to do or not do.
“Every year we have been left to our own devices after the 12th July is over, while the politicians go away on their holidays while our brethren are still unable to complete their parade and return home,” he said.
“We must continue to support those brethren whose civil and religious liberties are being denied by an unelected, unrepresentative quango who don’t take into consideration the human rights of this Institution. I am aware that they simply don’t listen to our side of the story to the extent that they simply don’t want us on the streets.
“Our Institution, culture, history, heritage and parades are of no threat to anyone, but we are demonised by republicans and nationalists alike. We demand Unionist politicians stop using this Institution for soundbites for their own political gain and help us to resolve the parading issue.
“Our brethren in many areas work on parading issues 365 days a year and not just on July 12, so we here demand Unionism unites to fight the scourge of the republican/nationalist agenda and ultimately to remove the parades commission. Remember, ‘United we stand, divided we fall’.