The Orange Order is in decline…

Northern Ireland Orange OrderAnd I can’t say I’m too sorry to hear it. Membership of the order in Northern Ireland has more than halved in the last 60 years. Grand Secretary Drew Nelson blames the decline primarily on the increasing secularisation in Northern Ireland, and that the order was suffering the same fate as churches with people turning away from religion. Interesting and heavily ironic. As an organisation that encourages its members to be church-goers it too is struggling with the church. Or perhaps people are turning away from bad religion as experienced in the Orange Order. Growing up in East Belfast there certainly seemed little connection with church as I knew it to the drinking and sectarianism of the local bands and orangemen. Nelson’s second reason for the decline is:

“Secondly, there’s the whole ethos of the state in Northern Ireland – it appears to be leaning somewhat against the Orange Order.”

In which he refers to PSNI members having to inform superiors of their membership of the order. Just right too. I wouldn’t want any policemen or women to be members of any sort of sectarian, never mind historically misguided organisation which brings ambiguity at best to the gospel of Jesus. The Jesus who told us to love our enemies and to serve – which seem to be things the Orange Order has forgotten or fails to practise.

Could it also be suggested that the fall in membership of the Orange Order is also a result of the ending of the troubles and many trying to move away from the sectarianism that has been eating away at us for the last who knows how long?

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6 thoughts on “The Orange Order is in decline…”

  1. My auld granda was a district master (or something like that) so we were always immersed in ‘the twelfth’ etc. But i’m with you, im not sad its in decline at all, it would be a shame if it disappeared completely though

  2. Glad its on the decline, but don’t think its a sign of moving away from sectarianism – the Orders always kept the bands at arm’s length, happy to manipulate them to suit their own ends.

  3. I imagine it has something with the sixteenth century finishing a good while back there, and with the orange no longer having an answer to the question “What are you for?”.

  4. “the Orders always kept the bands at arm’s length”- really?

    Little tiny dwarves’ arms?

  5. The relationship between the bands and the official Orange order has always been ambiguous at best. The band members are not members of the Order and so are not fully subject to the “discipline” (and I use that word somewhat skeptically) of the Order. But the Order could stop hiring them if they wanted too… But then this ambiguousness and ambivalence is rife in Ulster political life. The relationship between both Unionist parties and loyalist paramilitaries (official condemnation but tacit support at times), the relationship between the bands and paramilitaries (actually in many cases that isn’t ambiguous at all), and indeed the relationship between the churches and Orangism/loyalism. This ambiguity is not unigue to the PUL side of the house, but lets leave it at that for the moment. Drew is probably right about secularism being a factor in the decline of the Orange, but I would like to see the stats compared with membership of churches, bands, political parties and other apolitical or areligious groupings. Is it pure secularisation or is there a strong element of individualisation as well which impacts on our tendency to join any group these days? Apart from “effort free” joining, like groups on social networking sites that is.
    As for moving away from sectarianism… Don’t make me laugh. Moving away to what… Racism?

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