Freemasons claim they were 'gagged' in row over Belfast Masonic hall - High Court
Father and son Stewart and Brian Hood brought legal proceedings to the High Court after a dispute within the Antrim lodge
Masonic rules were not properly followed in the suspension of a father and son from the order, the High Court heard today.
A judge was told of alleged procedural breaches in the action taken against Stewart and Brian Hood following a disputed proposal to sell the body's Belfast city centre headquarters.
The Hoods, who run an electrical, plumbing and heating contractor business, were suspended on a charge of "unmasonic conduct".
They are seeking to have the sanction declared void which could then see them reinstated at their lodge in Templepatrick, Co Antrim.
Disciplinary action to suspend the Hoods was first taken in 2009.
But they argue that rather than going to the Dublin-based Grand Lodge of Masons in Ireland, the matter should have been dealt with at provincial level in Antrim.
Brian Hood, who brought the case along with his father, claimed in court he was "effectively gagged" after forming part of a retention team which put forward an alternative to selling the Masonic hall in central Belfast.
The building, on Rosemary Street, features a mural by renowned Irish artist John Luke.
Mr Hood, 48, told the court how he had been a member of the Masons from the age of 21, drawing "great comradeship" from an order which would provide security for his family in the event of any illness or death.
He claimed, however, that a dispute then developed between the retention team and others in the Provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim.
It was allegedly based on a board of general purpose deciding to endorse the alternative to selling off the Rosemary Street headquarters.
"The Provincial Grand Master said we were not to give a report, we were effectively gagged and from that point on things went from bad to worse," Mr Hood told the court.
Questioned by his barrister Mark Orr QC, he said seven members of the Provincial Grand Lodge were involved in the unmasonic conduct charge.
Mr Hood attended a disciplinary hearing in Dublin but claimed it was the wrong forum.
"The charges should have been heard under the Provincial Grand Lodge Board of General Purpose in Antrim," he said.
With a rehearing established last year, Mr Justice Weatherup was told an investigation into the alleged conduct is ongoing.
Although anyone no longer suspended is regarded as being of "good masonic standing" they would still have to apply again for membership.
Grand Secretary of Masons in Ireland, Barry Lyons, also gave evidence during the hearing.
He told Patrick Good QC, appearing for the respondents in the case, that a decision to process the charges was taken after consultation.
Mr Lyons added that the action was in response to "disharmony" within the organisation's Antrim province.
Judgment in the case was reserved.
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Belfast Telegraph Digital