Ballymoney Rising Star LOL 954 has marked its centenary with a celebration dinner.
Guest speaker at the event for “The Blue Lodge” was David Burnside, former Ulster Unionist member of Parliament for South Antrim.
“The Orange Order should play a co-ordinating role between all the Unionist Parties before any election – Council, Stormont, Westminster or Europe - to see that the Unionist vote is maximised and that in direct vote elections seats are not lost to Republicans because of inter party rivalry”, said Mr Burnside.
“It was out of the Orange Order that the Ulster Unionist Party was created. However, today the Order has no official link with any one Unionist Party and among its membership are members of all Unionist parties and of none. Regrettably, whilst there is no doubt that the vast majority of the Unionist electorate would, if given the opportunity, vote in a referendum for one united Unionist party, the vested interests of different party leaderships make that objective highly unlikely.
“In addition to the Orange Order’s prime role of loyalty to the Crown and the maintenance of the Protestant religion, the Order at Grand Lodge, County and District levels should adopt as a continuing objective the promotion of Unionist co-operation prior to any election.
“Those who say the Union is more secure than ever should be vigilant. The Scottish separation vote, which hopefully will vote against Alex Salmon in September next year, is a warning sign.
“The undercurrent of violent republican activities is not far below the surface. Whilst Sinn Fein/IRA has transformed into a political all Ireland movement from its terrorist Provisional IRA past, there are younger Adams and McGuinesses out there who will be planning and encouraging militant Republicanism, especially in to the Centenary of the 1916 Easter Uprising in 2016.
“The Orange Order has been a unifying force throughout its history. It can in the future help co-ordination, liaison and unity among Unionist parties, whose divisions still in my opinion turn off a sizable section of the electorate who long for fundamental established Unionist unity.”
Mr Burnside, a Past Master of LOL 954, thanked, on behalf of the Blue Lodge, the guests who were present at the Centenary Dinner.