The Orange Order was asked to contribute to a debate taking place in The Sun newspaper regarding our parades.  We were happy to do so and Jim McHarg submitted a piece as did MSP James Dornan.  We welcomed the opportunity to put forward our case, and we appreciate the points put forward by James Dornan who takes a different position to our own.

Surely this is the way forward?  A reasoned debate where different views are put forward.  This is a million miles away from many of the articles and online comments that have appeared recently that have focused on wave after wave of abuse directed in our direction.

We want to engage and put forward our case and we are grateful to The Sun for the recent opportunity to do so.

The article that appeared is reproduced below, and our full submission to The Sun has also been copied below.

 

Full submission:-

Jim McHarg – Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland

It’s that time of year again, when colourful Orange Order parades take place around Scotland, quickly followed by a chorus of disapproval, and calls for limitations and bans.  It seems at times that we are locked in a continuous battle around freedom of association, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.

The narrative seems to indicate that most people in society strongly value those freedoms.  Then suddenly, when those same people disagree with the views of a particular organisation, the narrative changes, and those freedoms are to be curtailed or withdrawn.  Surely you don’t have true freedom until you allow a diversity of opinion?  And if we lose the right to be different, we lose the privilege of being free?

We of course accept however that in exercising our rights, it must come with accepting responsibility.  Last weekend, I heard reports that a priest was verbally abused and spat at as an Orange parade passed by his church.  Verbal abuse directed at a man representing his church is completely unacceptable, and allegations of spitting is abhorrent, vile and disgusting, and we hope those involved are brought to justice to the full extent of the law.  Whilst it has been established that no members of the parade were involved, nonetheless, the members of the public who we believe were responsible had turned up to watch the parade go past.

The Orange Order is founded on the principal of religious liberty for all.  This includes the right of other faiths to celebrate and promote their own heritage and history, just as we celebrate ours.  Unfortunately, there are a small number of people in society who seem unwilling to adopt this tolerant approach.  Indeed, many of them allude to beliefs and sing songs about a time in the past which they probably know very little about or fail to understand at all.  I have only one message for them, stay away, you are not welcome at any of our parades!

We see our parades as an opportunity to celebrate our culture, faith and heritage.  They are not designed to be antagonistic, triumphalist, or defiant, but somehow, they are often perceived in this way.  This is a perception we need to try to change, and we accept that the onus is on us to lead the way in creating a better understanding of what we are about as an organisation.  But we need help to do so, we want to work with others to create the environment in which we can work better together.  A few years ago, we decided to hold an event in the centre of Glasgow that wasn’t a parade but was more of an exhibition and information day where people could approach us, talk with us, and learn a bit more about us.  Unfortunately, we were met by significant opposition and calls to be banned.  The comments ranged from simply derogatory to some which were abusive and threatening.  This is where we hope that working with others could perhaps be a better way forward to break down some of the barriers that exist.

So what about the future of the Orange Order and our parades?  Our desire is to reach a point where it is accepted that all organisations have their place, and where our parades are seen as celebratory and not triumphant.  We’d like to be recognised as a part of our culture, just as others who take to the streets to march for other religious, social or political reasons are too.

We’d like the same rights afforded to everyone.  The freedom to hold different views, to celebrate our own cultural history, to follow different faiths and engage in constructive and critical debate with those with whom we disagree.

We believe the answer to intolerance is to encourage greater diversity.  The moment we seek to ban or limit these ideals, is the moment we give up on our country.  It has been said that Scotland is indeed a country of many faiths, many people, and many cultures.  It is time we all lived by these words.

-ENDS-