We won't forget our murdered members or loved ones
On Saturday, Grand Lodge held its inaugural Orange Victims' Day. The purpose of the new annual event is to honour and remember the 335 Orangemen and one Orangewoman murdered by terrorists during the Troubles. The day also served to highlight the ongoing plight of the injured and bereaved.
The nature of the occasion, which was marked by various events and acts of remembrance across the province, was understandably one of profound sadness as we, as an organisation, reflected on the sacrifice of our members. As we paused in silence, their grieving families, who live with the loss every day, were in our thoughts and prayers.
Conversely, it was also a day of immense pride as the Institution contemplated the bravery of those - many in the security forces - who put others before themselves during the darkest days of Northern Ireland's troubled past.
Living myself in close proximity to the border in west Tyrone, I am personally only too aware of the losses endured by individual lodges in decades past.
In my own home county, 85 Orange members, including Orangewoman and UDR corporal Heather Kerrigan were murdered. I personally knew numerous victims and attended many funerals in a turbulent period of our province's history. Poignantly, Saturday marked the 43rd anniversary of the Tullyvallen massacre, when IRA gunmen stormed a rural south Armagh lodge meeting and indiscriminately murdered five Orangemen. As well as individual brethren being targeted in the most heinous circumstances, the most recent being prison officer David Black in 2012, the Order also lost members in high-profile atrocities such as Kingsmill, Enniskillen, Teebane, and the 1998 Omagh bombing, among many others.
When I was elected Grand Master in 2011, I made a pledge the innocent victims of the Troubles and their families would remain a key priority for the Orange Institution.
Our designated victims' day is another public demonstration of our promise to those most affected by the unspeakable acts of terrorism.
As an Institution, we will never forget our murdered members or their loved ones.
Edward Stevenson is Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland