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UKip Northern Ireland leader David McNarry admits attending Catholic Mass as he joins call for Orange Order to end ban

By Noel McAdam

Published 07/10/2016

Claims: David McNarry
Claims: David McNarry

Another former senior Orange leader has backed calls for the Order to review its ban on members attending Catholic Mass - and confessed to having attended three in the past.

David McNarry, the Ukip leader in Northern Ireland, also said he believed the institution's chaplains could initiate a discussion about changing the traditional rule.

The past Assistant Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ireland also admitted he had been present at Requiem Mass at the funerals of friends.

Mr McNarry argued that Orange Order members did not break the ban if they did not participate in a Mass. He was referring to the instruction in the Order's rule book that "you should not countenance by your presence or otherwise any act or ceremony of Popish worship".

His comments came after senior Orange figure the Rev Mervyn Gibson said that he would support the lifting of the ban - although he would decline to initiate the policy change himself.

Mr McNarry, who remains an Orange Order member and walked in the last Twelfth parade in Comber, said: "I am in agreement with Mervyn. In its own time the institution should promote a discussion.

"It may come about from the Grand chaplains perhaps preparing a review if they so wish, and it is a worthy subject for a discussion.

"All Orangemen are aware of the rule. I don't know how anyone breaks that rule if they enter a Roman Catholic chapel and Mass is going on and you don't participate in it.

"In fact, most Orangemen would not know how to participate in it.

"If, as occasions have arisen, and you are doing it as part of your civic duties, or it is the close relation of a son or daughter or a friend, or someone serving in the Armed Forces, or someone you have known for a long time, you do the natural thing and go to pay your respects."

The ex-Strangford MLA, who was a senior Ulster Unionist for many years, added: "I have always felt this way.

"I have gone on three occasions when I felt that I wanted to pay my respects by going to a friend's funeral."

His former UUP colleagues Tom Elliott MP and Danny Kennedy MLA faced the threat of disciplinary action in 2011 when they attended the funeral Mass of murdered police officer Ronan Kerr. They were subject to a complaint by a Belfast lodge, but were later cleared.

Both men said they had no regrets about attending Constable Kerr's funeral and believe there is a growing demand to change the rule. Mr Kennedy said the Order often turned a blind eye to the rule anyway, particularly in rural areas.

Mr Gibson, who is now Assistant Grand Master, said he had attended homes and wakes of "Roman Catholics and republicans" and prayed for the families "and with them".

"That rule harks back to a day when people said, 'Don't go into the chapel' and I accept that, but equally it can be changed and it may be changed," he added.

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