The Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland Robert Saulters has thrown his weight behind calls for unionist unity. At the re-opening of Lavin Orange Hall (which had been gutted by fire in 2006), Mr Saulters said there is too much division within unionism. In his personal opinion, there should be one big unionist party “modern enough to allow people with conflicting opinions to work together”.
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I am delighted to be with you tonight to mark the re-opening of this splendid new hall.
It has literally risen from the ashes and I congratulate everyone who has worked so hard to make this happen.
You have shown a wonderful spirit in the face of adversity.
One of the most fulfilling parts of being your Grand Master is that I travel the length and breadth of our jurisdiction, and further afield, and get the chance to listen to the views of Orangemen.
We are a proud organisation with a long history and tradition.
We are also a unique organisation in the Protestant and unionist community in that we have members who represent all the many shades of unionism.
And the message I have been receiving loud and clear is that there is too much division within unionism.
There is a huge groundswell of opinion that there must be a drive towards unionist unity or at the very least better joined up thinking between unionists.
The one phrase which seems to really upset our enemies is unionist unity. They are unable to cope with the prospect and we should take note of that.
Personally, I believe there should be one big unionist party which represents all the views that I hear. It must be a party that is big enough and modern enough to allow people with conflicting opinions to work together for the common purpose of maintaining the union.
That, after all is the single most important political aspiration that we have and we will continue to dilute the union if we continue to fight and bicker among ourselves.
Our enemies, and they are many, are laughing at us.
I know it will not be easy. In fact it will be incredibly difficult and people will have to make concessions and set aside differences that have existed for a long time.
The Orange Order has warned our unionist leaders that the time is right for intelligent and radical thinking about the way forward.
As an institution, we stand ready to play our part – whatever that may be – in working towards a more cohesive unionist community and ultimately ensuring that the union is maintained for future generations.
People like me must stand up and articulate the views of our members.
In the political battle to maintain the union, there is no prize for coming second.