The Officers of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland have announced that all meetings, services, events and parades of the Orange Institution should cease immediately.
Grand Master Edward Stevenson made the announcement this afternoon amid the ongoing concern surrounding the coronavirus Covid-19 crisis.
“In direct response to the Prime Minister’s appeal to limit social interaction and his assertion that ‘now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel’ and taking other factors into consideration, I have taken the unprecedented, but necessary decision to instruct that all meetings, services, events and parades of the Orange Institution should cease immediately and until further notice,” he said.
“Most Worshipful Sister Joan Beggs, Grand Mistress of the Association of Loyal Orangewomen has also endorsed these actions, which will also apply to that organisation with immediate effect.
“The Museums of Orange Heritage at Schomberg House and Sloan’s House Loughgall will close effective from this date. The situation will be kept under constant review and the decisions regarding the resumption of our activities will be guided by advice from health professionals.”
Grand Lodge Headquarters, Schomberg House, will close to the public this Friday, March 20.
Arrangements have been put in place so that all staff and Grand Lodge Officers will still be contactable by phone or email and they will endeavour to ensure that all enquiries and communication is dealt with as efficiently as possible.
Grand Master Stevenson added: “I appreciate that our culture and traditions are very much a way of life for the Orange family, however in light of the current situation, we must all prioritise the safety of not only our members, but of the entire community.
“As an all island organisation, we ask all members to follow fully the individual health advice of their respective Governments.
“As this epidemic spreads and increases, the UK Government has indicated that they will be seeking volunteers for a ‘wholehearted national effort’ to ‘help and support each other’.
“Therefore, I would appeal to all able-bodied members, who are not deemed to be at risk, to volunteer to assist in this work.
“There are already many examples of local Lodges and Bands helping their local communities.
“I am greatly heartened by these stories and would encourage that such efforts are coordinated to maximise their impact. We are a fraternal and charitable organisation and we must show support and benevolence not only to our members, but to all communities in the weeks and months ahead.
“Lodges are asked to ensure they have contact details for all members. It is important that we keep in regular contact with each other, but especially those who are required to self-isolate in their homes and particularly those who may not have the support of local family members.
“Last, but certainly not least, I would further encourage you all to pray diligently for each other, our families and our community at this time. Also prayerfully remembering our health service professionals and those in authority as they seek to guide us all through the uncertain days ahead. May God be with us all in the months ahead.
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.” Isaiah 26: 3,4
Elsewhere, Sloan’s House in Loughgall have decided to close the Museum of Orange Heritage immediately.
“We take our responsibilities for the health and well-being of our volunteers and visitors very seriously and taking into account the Government guidance, this is the best way to deal with the current difficulties we all face at this time,” a spokesperson for the Museum said.
“The Directors will monitor the situation in the coming weeks and will open the Museum again when the situation improves. Contact will be made with those groups who have booked meetings and tours in the weeks ahead.”