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Orange Order 'birthplace' a museum

A homestead widely recognised as the birthplace of the Orange Order has reopened as a museum.

Sloan's House in Loughgall, Co Armagh is where the institution was formed in 1795 in the wake of the nearby Battle of Diamond between Protestant and Catholic gangs.

The refurbishment is part of an EU-backed £3.8 million project which has also seen a new Orange museum open in Belfast.

The Loughgall dwelling has undergone a major extension to cater for additional museum exhibition areas and provision of detailed information relating to the early history of the Orange Order.

The expansion incorporates a display of the original Sloan's Parlour, set up like it might have looked when the Orange institution was first formed there.

Like the new museum in east Belfast, the Order hopes the Loughgall facility will "promote shared space and greater levels of reconciliation through education".

County Grand Master of County Armagh Grand Orange Lodge, Denis Watson, hailed the redevelopment.

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"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," he said.

"It is fitting that such a living history can be shared.

"We are delighted to showcase our cultural heritage with a wider audience through the provision of a modern museum. Our new centre will tell the story of the formation of the Orange Order and its evolution through graphics, audio visual technologies and the display of key artefacts.

"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.

"Outreach is a major part of this initiative and we look forward to engaging with schools and community groups in the local area as well as the border counties of the Irish Republic."

The majority of the funding for the museums - £3.6 million - was made through EU's PEACE III programme, which included contributions from the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish government.

The Grand Lodge of Ireland contributed £200,000.

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