Zero discrimination against Freemasons in Northern Ireland, insists leader
Freemasons in Northern Ireland are not being discriminated against in the way fraternal members are in England, a leading figure has said.
Douglas Grey, the grand master of the Grand Lodge of Freemasons of Ireland, spoke out after the Grand Lodge of England took out an advert calling for an end to the stigmatisation of its members.
Mr Grey said he was not aware of any hate crime being carried out against Freemasons here.
And he said "under no circumstances" would the group in Ireland need to take out an advert in the national Press calling for an end to discrimination as their English counterparts had done.
Yesterday, the United Grand Lodge of England placed the adverts in three newspapers under the headline 'Enough is enough', claiming that Freemasons had been "undeservedly stigmatised."
The organisation's chief executive David Staples claimed its 200,000-plus members were victims of "ongoing gross misrepresentation" which amounted to "discrimination".
He added: "Our members shouldn't have to feel undeservedly stigmatised. No other organisation would stand for this and nor shall we."
Mr Staples said he had written to the Equality and Human Rights Commission over the issue.
The public will be able to ask questions at a series of open evenings across England over the next six months. However, Mr Grey said he didn't feel Freemasons had been victims of misrepresentation in Ireland.
"I don't see any evidence of that, and I have been grand master for three years and was deputy grand master for eight years prior to that," he said.
"We have about 18,000 people who are members of the Freemasons in Northern Ireland and I'm not aware of anyone suffering hate crimes due to their membership of the organisation.
"There are about 580 lodges in the whole of Ireland, and 65%-70% are in Northern Ireland.
"Our doors are always open, we don't place any restriction on people coming into our building in Dublin on heritage days - we have between 3,000 and 4,000 coming through the doors."
Mr Grey said that there had been "no demand" to open up the society, which has been men-only since 1725.
"There are female Freemason lodges if they want to do that," he added.
"We haven't had any enquiries."