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Orange Order should join all other Protestants in the 21st century and stop pretending to speak for majority

Letter of the day: catholic mass debate

Published 21/10/2016

The Orange Order's possible change of stance on members attending Roman Catholic services has been headline news.

The impression given by this intense debate is that, somehow, the Orange Order represents the beating heart of both unionism and the Protestant faith in Northern Ireland. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There are arguably as many (and probably more) pro-Union voters and Protestants in Northern Ireland for whom the Orange Order has no relevance or influence, for whom parades and flags disputes have been an embarrassment perpetrated in their name and for whom the Orange Order, the bands and the culture are not considered a force for good.

Such sentiments excite the derision and inverted snobbery of the Order for those they term 'garden centre unionists'. I am happy to be one.

It is only in the Orange Order that this hand-wringing occurs over entering a Roman Catholic Church. The majority of Protestants (including many already in the Order) have been doing so for years as an act of respect to Catholic friends, neighbours and colleagues at times of celebration, or trouble, in their lives.

None so far have emerged from the experience with horns, tails or cloven hooves.

Rather than get excited about the prospect of the Orange Order catching up with the majority of Protestants and unionists already living in the 21st century, we should be asking, what is taking you so long?

CIARAN CLARKE

Co Fermanagh

Belfast Telegraph

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