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Ending of Orange Order Mass ban a step closer to more inclusive society

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 06/10/2016

Rev Mervyn Gibson
Rev Mervyn Gibson

Many people will welcome the statement from a senior Orangeman, the Reverend Mervyn Gibson, that he would like to see members free to attend a Catholic Mass without fear of discipline.

Realistically, in the newly-emerging Northern Ireland, many people mix and have friendships across the divides, whether during social events, in the workplace, or in sport.

It is only natural that if people wish to accept a wedding invitation, or offer sympathies at a funeral, they should be free to do so.

It was unseemly that senior Orange figures Tom Elliott and Danny Kennedy faced the possibility of discipline by the Order for attending the funeral of murdered Catholic policeman Ronan Kerr, but good sense prevailed and they were not formally disciplined.

There are members of the Orange Order who have Catholic relatives, and many of these people have been doing the right thing for years, through a sense of civic duty, family solidarity and friendship.

As Northern Ireland moves forward, there will be more coalescence among the different communities. It would be helpful if this would happen more quickly, but the initiative by Reverend Gibson, and others, will further promote the journey towards a more normal and shared society.

Overall, the Orange Order has had a good year, despite the attacks on its property. This often-maligned organisation deserves full credit for helping to promote a more peaceful marching season.

The Order made an important contribution to the welcome resolution of the Twaddell Avenue stand-off.

Hopefully if and when the long-term Drumcree dispute is settled, the Orange demonstrations and associated events will become assimilated peacefully into our culture here.

This is a positive reflection not only on the Orange Order but also on the voices of good sense and compromise within nationalism.

We must find a way to live together, and learn not just to tolerate others but also to try and understand what makes them the people they are.

One of the best ways to do that is to step across the divide. If you are an Orange member, visit a Catholic church, and vice-versa for members of other communities. Often there are fears and misconceptions about the "other side" but they tend to decrease or even vanish through personal contact and experience.

Belfast Telegraph

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