Museum opens its doors in the birthplace of the Orange Order
A new multi-million pound museum yesterday opened in Co Armagh at the birthplace of the Orange Order.
The state-of-the-art Museum of Orange Heritage has opened at Sloan's House in the village of Loughgall, where the institution was founded more than 200 years ago.
Sloan's House, an inn belonging to James Sloan, is where the first Orange Warrants were signed in 1795 following the Battle of the Diamond, which took place nearby.
The museum, which received £3.6m of funding from the EU's Peace III Programme, is part of the Reaching out through Education and Cultural Heritage Project (Reach), which has also seen a new Orange museum open in Belfast.
Former Armagh GAA star Jarlath Burns was among those attending the museum's opening yesterday along with grand master of the Orange Order Edward Stevenson, county grand master Denis Watson, MEPs Diane Dodds and Jim Nicholson, and Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey.
Sloan's Parlour at the house has been restored to show how it would have looked when the Order was founded.
The museum also features a walk-through timeline of significant events in the Order's history illustrated with historical depictions of the key events and people.
Artefacts on display include the actual table on which the first Orange Warrants were signed, a musket and bayonet used at the Battle of the Diamond and a flag carried at the Battle of Dolly's Brae.
The Battle of the Diamond, between the Protestant Peep O' Day Boys and the Catholic Defenders in September 1795, was one of the key events that led to the founding of the Order.
In 1849 a sectarian fight between Orangemen and Catholic Ribbonmen during the traditional Twelfth march took place at Dolly's Brae near Castlewellan, Co Down, and led to a decades-long ban on Orange marches.
"We are immensely proud that the roots of Orangeism, and its worldwide presence of today, emanated from within the confines of Sloan's House following the Battle of the Diamond. It is fitting that such a living history can be shared," said Mr Watson.
"We are delighted to showcase our cultural heritage with a wider audience through the provision of a modern museum."
He added: "By enabling a greater understanding of the well-established Orange tradition in Co Armagh, we believe this facility will be a positive influence for community relations in the area. We also have confidence its presence will be hugely beneficial to the local economy, as well as the tourism sector."
Mr Storey said the project was helping to "break down barriers".
"In promoting and explaining its history and heritage in an open and welcoming way, and inviting in schools and community groups, the Orange Order is seeking to encourage the positive relationships which will form the basis of a shared future," he said.
The Republic of Ireland's Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Alan Kelly, said: "I am delighted that this project has now been completed and is available for all to enjoy.
"I think we need to understand and respect the traditions of the Orange Order.
"And I am confident of the beneficial impact of this museum project for all, now and into the future."