Last week senior representatives of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland and the Royal Black Institution met with Roman Catholic clergy in Belfast.
The meeting was held at the Orange Institution’s temporary headquarters. It was attended by the Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution, Millar Farr, and the Bishop of Down and Connor, Bishop Noel Treanor.
Other Loyal Order representatives included the Rev Alistair Smyth, Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Drew Nelson, Grand Secretary, Jack Greenald, Grand Treasurer, Raymond Spiers, Assistant Grand Master, George Chittick, Grand Master of the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast, and Billy Scott, Imperial Grand Registrar of the Royal Black Institution.
Bishop Treanor was accompanied by Father Timothy Bartlett, Secretary to the northern Bishops and Father Michael Sheehan, Administrator of Saint Patrick’s Parish, Donegall Street, Belfast.
As well as discussing the issue of religious freedom in today’s society, the clergy were given a presentation of the Orange Institution’s educational outreach programme and an overview of the REACH Project, which will see the development of two new interpretative centres in Belfast and Loughgall.
All parties agreed the meeting was helpful, allowing a useful exchange of views and committed themselves to further engagement.
It is meetings like this that will really bring about change in the North.
And, as the referendum carried out in this jurisdiction after the signing of the Good Friday Peace Agreement clearly showed, the majority here in the South want the people in the North to live together in peace and harmony.
The majority here are more interested in that, more than politics. Respect for others is the key factor in a democracy.