Open Unionism


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Time for the Orange Order to Pause and Review

Robert Saulters has decided to step down as Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland. I’d like first of all to recognise his role in leading the Order through some of it’s most difficult times, the achievement of the last 14 years is that the Order is still here and intact.

Secondly I’d like to ask the Orange Order to pause for a second and consider; where next?

The governance and structures of the Orange Order are largely the same as they were a century ago.  The modern 24-hour news cycle requires quick and co-herant responses, but the Order’s structures seem better sync’d with the weekly local newspaper than Sky News, Twitter etc.

Moreover, the Order is trapped in a cycle:  we fail to attract young people because the organisation is run by old men set in their ways – because their are few young energetic leaders in the Order we have to fill the leadership positions with old men who are set in their ways.  How do we break this cycle?

The Orange Order could just appoint a new Grand Master and amble on in roughly the same direction or we could stop and review and decide where we want to go and how we’re going to get there.  The time for a strategic review is long overdue.

(Just a quick blog, I’ll think more about this over the next few days.)



Filed under: Orange Order, ,

7 Responses

  1. st etienne says:

    the achievement of the last 14 years is that the Order is still here and intact.

    Perhaps a bit over-dramatic? Even if it is something he’ll be remembered for surely it highlights how limited his outlook was?

    Agree with the gist of your post.

  2. st etienne says:

    also, Saulters was ‘in control’ for 14 years. The office should be rotated every 2-4 years, with defined goals set out by the incumbent at the start of their tenure.

  3. thefreshthinking says:

    I think limited tenures would be a useful idea to consider across the organisation particularly as a way of getting fresh blood promoted at district level.

    My own Church (Methodist) had a review a couple of years ago of local church governance and introduced 3 year terms for members of the Church Committees. This wasn’t universally popular at the time because it was argued you couldn’t keep good workers on the committee. In reality the good workers are still there, maybe not in the same post, and a wider range of people have been forced to get involved.

    I’m not saying this is definitely what the Orange Order should do, but why doesn’t the new Grand Master start a review?

    Other suggestions, quotas of people under the age of 35 at district and county level.

    Seats on Grand Lodge reserved for people under the age of 35?

    And here’s a really blasphemous one, has the Order’s policy of not talking to residents groups worked for us?

    Have the strategies pursued by say for example the Apprentice Boys of Derry worked better for them?

    Why is the Apprentice Boys growing in size while the Orange Orders membership probably isn’t?

  4. thedissenter says:

    Talking to residents groups is not a strategy, it is part of a bigger picture about how to move forward in changing political/social/economic context – there are a whole raft of position statements and training and planning under a strategy that remains open. It cannot be said that something has ‘worked’ until there is closure, and the issue of parades is far from ended.

    It is not about whether or not something ‘works’ but rather whether or not it is the right thing to do and knowing why and how that action fits into the wider ambitions for the organisation and its fundamental ethos.

    One thing to note is that the Annual Commemorations of the ABOD are not part of its hugely successful Festival; the Festival is complementary to the Commemorations, but when the Festival didn’t take place (2007) the Commemorations proceeded. Not to say that the Maiden City Festival an end in itself. Go to the or, or websites and follow the links. It is about finding contemporary ways to express and share the history of the Siege and ABOD with others, while maintaining the traditions and fundamentals of an organisation with centuries of heritage.

    But a completely different strategy would need to be built for the OO, and it is unfair to compare the two. Totally different.

  5. Drumlins Rock says:

    I agree that a review is needed, but not just a tokenism fixed terms for the GM or under 35 members, a complete review of who we are and what we are is needed, clarifying the balance between Faith, Community, Culture and Politics, extending membership to women, a review of structures, associate membership? the reform and integration of the RAP degree, everything should be on the table, prob 99% of it will remain, but arranged so much better.

  6. […] at Open Unionism, blogger thefreshthinking asked where next for the Orange Order. The blogger believes that the […]

  7. thefreshthinking says:

    I’m going to say it, allowing women to join probably makes good sense. The women’s lodge as exists at present is really just a patronising, “there you go girls you can pretends to be orangemen too” exercise.

    Regarding Faith, Community, Culture and Politics, the order should set goals for the first 3 and work back to discover what actions are needed. The 4th is clearly more sensitive, the Order should not be embarrassed of it’s role as an honest broker between the parties. The order’s ability to transcend the individual parties is a new and in my view beneficial role it has acquired since breaking the link with the UUP. Catcall’s from liberals pages of the media should not deter them from this role.

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