Brother Chairman, Platform Party, Brethren Sisters and friends
My first duty this afternoon is to thank the County Antrim Grand Lodge for inviting me to take part in the platform proceedings; I also want to add my words of welcome already extended to everyone here this afternoon, as we celebrate the 327th anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne.
I also want to extend 12th greeting to our brethren and sisters in Scotland, England, Argentina, Australia, Canada and anywhere else in the world some might be today.
The other day I heard the infamous George Galloway (former MP and Big Brother Contestant) on American television pouring scorn on the celebrations of the Boyne.) He laughed and mocked as he told his audience about how Protestants celebrated a battle fought over 300 years ago. He can mock all he likes. Yes, the Battle of the Boyne was fought a long time ago, but it had a profound significance for the future of Ireland, Britain, Europe and indeed the world. The civil and religious liberties enjoyed by us all – including George Galloway and his naive American audience – were secured on those green grassy slopes. Our modern democracy owes an enormous debt to those who fought and won at the Boyne.
We make no apology for celebrating the Boyne in our time-honoured and traditional manner. We have done it for many years and will continue to do it for many years to come. And let all who value their civil and religious liberties join with us!
I want to commend everyone who has taken part in the parade through the village, whether in the bands, drumming parties or as members of the Institution. Our numbers might be small compared with some other demonstrations being held today, but the size of an organization is not everything. Far from it indeed. Over the years, we have been able to punch above our weight and long may that continue.
A big thank-you as well to our supporters and friends who lined the route of the parade. We are grateful to you for your presence here today. It would be a dreary march to the field if there were no spectators to wave at us and cheer us on our way.
I also want to place on record my thanks to the brethren of Rasharkin District for all their hard work in getting everything ready for today.
A mention at this point must go to the newly formed County Antrim Cultural Committee. This committee has done some great work. It has spearheaded the “Sharkin Festival” which has resulted in a wide variety of cultural and historical events being staged this month in Rasharkin District and in our HQ in Ballymoney. I was pleased to be able to attend some of the events and I congratulate all involved.
Our history, our faith, our traditions and our culture are key ingredients of who we are and what we are. We often hear the mantra “you can’t eat a flag” – as if anyone thought you could or should! That statement is absurd and it misses the point that it is important for any people, in any society, at any time in history, to value their heritage. And not only to value it but to celebrate it. And to celebrate it openly and freely without let or hindrance.
Some in Northern Ireland would tell us that culture and traditions are important – but that some are more important than others. Or to put it another way in a day when we hear a lot about equality – all cultures and traditions are equal but some are more equal than others.
Sinn Fein repeatedly tells us that they are committed to equality, respect and integrity. Or at least I think that’s what Michelle O’Neill is saying.
It all sounds very good and very noble, but it seems fairly clear that Sinn Fein take the same approach to words as Humpty Dumpty in the book “Alice through the Looking Glass”. There Humpty tells Alice –
‘When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
It is clear from their actions that Sinn Fein defines equality, respect and integrity in their own way – and very differently from the rest of us.
Of course Gerry Adams has famously described the equality agenda as a Trojan horse designed to break unionism. So there we have it – straight from the Trojan horse’s mouth!
The equality agenda is a smoke-screen for a much wider agenda. Sinn Fein has no interest in genuine equality or in displaying respect or integrity in relation to our Protestant and Unionist identity. Sinn Fein wants to destroy our heritage. Let’s be under no illusions about that.
I mentioned flags. At this time of the year, we fly the Union and Ulster Flags with pride from our homes, our halls and on the streets of our towns and villages. I just wish more people would fly the flag at their homes for I remember days when nearly every house did just that.
Every year, there is a chorus of complaints from Sinn Fein, SDLP and Alliance politicians about these flags. They tell us that such displays are offensive, divisive and sectarian, and that they damage community relations. They call on the police to remove these flags from lamp-posts and other public places.
Can I remind these people that the Union Flag and the Ulster Flag are the flags of this country? We have a democratic right to display them at any time of the year. They are flown at the Twelfth as part of the celebration of our unionist and Protestant culture.
If Sinn Fein, SDLP and Alliance are so concerned about flags, what have they done here in Rasharkin to challenge the displays of Irish Tricolours and other republican flags on public property throughout the village? Or are they too busy criticizing the flying of British flags?
These flags (alien to Northern Ireland) have been put up for one purpose and one purpose only – to intimidate local residents and those involved in our demonstration here today.
Why do I say this you might ask?
Over the past months I have travelled a lot to Londonderry through the village of Dungiven where like Rasharkin, flags were flown on 17ThMarch, the difference now is the ones in Dungiven were removed after the events they were celebrating, I could also add that the same happened in Dunloy?
I did mention I was travelling to Londonderry since March and have been involved in a project in the Brandywell, hardly known as a Loyalist or Protestant part of the city, where I saw no flags flying in the area I was in.
I also noticed in Rasharkin that bunting had been put up during the 17TH March demonstration, but was removed within a week of the event being over while the flags remained until last Friday.
This can only lead to the conclusion that there are some in Rasharkin who only want to annoy, frustrate and instill fear in anyone who disagrees with their view. In fact they want no, as they call them, ORANGE FEET in the village or anything British except of course the British Pound, and British government handouts. They are ably assisted in their quest for removal of all things Protestants and Unionist by that unelected Quango, called the Parades Commission, we see that by the decisions they make regarding the local Ballymaconnelly band. We all know of the restrictions imposed on them over the past years, which I might add the band have adhered to, only to be rewarded by more restrictions, off course a story we can tell for many others areas in our country. As we have called for many times before, from this platform, this body must go.
Brethren there is a definite move in this area to stir up troubles, only a few weeks ago we had in Kilrea 3-4 miles away, John Dallet accusing those watching Boveedy Band Parade, of abusing him, something which has been totally refuted by the organizers of the parade, and I know whose word I would trust , I believe this type of accusation is not an accident but rather by design and a definite ploy by Nationalists and Republicans to divide the area, and try and set up a nationalist line from Kilrea, through Rasharkin, Dunloy , Cloughmills and into the Glens . We must be on our guard and not let this happen.
I know that the decent citizens of Rasharkin – both Protestants and Roman Catholics – are unhappy but are reluctant to speak out, on these issues.
While the flag of a foreign nation flies unmolested, we have to creep in at dawn of day and erect the flag of our nation in advance of our demonstration. Is this an example of equality, respect and integrity? I think not.
I have no objection to Republicans promoting their culture, but if equality and parity of esteem are to mean anything, then there needs to be full respect for our Protestant and Unionist culture.
I challenge Sinn Fein from this platform today. If you really believe in a shared future, will you now end all opposition to loyal order parades and support the right of Orangemen to parade in places such as Drumcree, Dunloy and Ardoyne? If you do, then we might just begin to believe your rhetoric.
This Institution has been free from Party Politics, and rightly so since its inception, just in case there as those who might think it has changed its stance because of what I am about to say, I will be naming some political parties, because I name some parties it doesn’t mean we as an Institution are lining with the particular party. Our members are free to choose whom they will support.
As things stand, we are faced with a republicanism that has hardened its attitude and its demands. For its own narrow purposes Sinn Fein brought the Northern Ireland Assembly crashing down at the start of this year. Since then, all we have heard from them is demand after demand.
The unionist people got a major wake-up call during the Assembly election in March. For far too long, apathy reigned among unionist voters. These voters – including the middle classes who were known as “garden Centre Protestants” – had disengaged from politics. It was as if it was all beneath them. Working class loyalists had also become apathetic and disengaged. This rejection of the ballot box came back to bite and bite hard when in March, for the first time in the history of Northern Ireland, unionism ended up being no longer in the majority in Stormont.
Sinn Fein was naturally cock-a-hoop. Their strategy was paying off big time. They had unionism on the back foot.
A week is a long time in politics. Thankfully – and indeed providentially- unionism had a much unexpected opportunity last month to get its act together when Theresa May called a snap UK General Election. Unionism rallied and people came out to vote. Mrs. May didn’t get her majority after all and the 10 DUP MPs now hold the balance of power.
We now have strong unionist representation at Westminster and – again providentially -that unionism is in a commanding position to influence national and local politics.
Who would have thought that after the great shock and disappointment of March that would now be where we are.
We need to give our full and prayerful support to all ten DUP MPs. (One off course is our member Gregory Campbell) They have secured a good deal for Northern Ireland, but they will need continued wisdom, strength and grace as they work closely with the Conservative Government in the months and years ahead.
I urge all members of the unionist family to forge closer bonds. What unites us is much greater than anything that divides us. There is room for a variety of views within unionism, but we must stand shoulder to shoulder on the big issues. United we stand – divided we fall.
As we observe the state of our nation, we are saddened by its ongoing departure from its Biblical roots. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 confirmed that our nation is founded upon Protestantism. Protestantism was the cement that held England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland together for centuries. But the nation has turned its back on its Biblical Protestant heritage and the cement is crumbling.
This departure from Protestantism has been graphically highlighted in recent times. Tim Farron resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats just after the General Election partly because he had been constantly attacked for his evangelical Christian beliefs. Then the DUP came under the spotlight just after the Election when it became clear that Mrs May would enter into an agreement with them. The party was suddenly subjected to a tirade of vile abuse for its creationist, anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion stance. Such views – once mainstream across the UK- were ridiculed as the insane rantings of fundamentalist crack-pots.
Social media overflowed with poisonous invective against those who would dare to bring Biblical values into political life. But what I found more alarming was the extent to which the likes of BBC, Sky, ITV and Channel 4 followed a similar line. Reporters simply could not conceal their bias.
My main gripe is with the BBC. As licence payers, we are entitled to high-quality objective and impartial reporting and analysis from this once great Corporation. But we do not get that. Instead we have to put up with poor and lazy journalism from an organization that seems to be riddled with those who are left-wing and anti-Christian. The BBC needs to take a long hard look as itself. More importantly, the Government needs to take a long hard look at the BBC.
Sadly, the media attack on Biblical Christianity reflects – at least to some extent – the mood and attitude of the nation in general.
We were all shocked by the recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and London and then the horrendous fire in Grenfell Tower in London. These dreadful events have claimed many lives and changed others forever. My heart goes out to all who are suffering.
But it is not also a tragedy that the national reaction to these terrible events has been a largely secular and godless one?
It is very sad that our nation seems to have departed from the God of its fathers and is now left reeling when tragedy strikes. People turn to godless and atheistic pop songs rather than hymns. They turn to idols rather than to the Lord. They engage in communal hugs rather than prayer. They speak of “One Love” but turn their back on One who loves them and calls them to Himself.
The Bible tells us that righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproof to any people. It reminds us that blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. How we need to see God’s Holy Spirit move in our nation in these days. We would say with the prophet Habakkuk, “O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy”.
This year we mark the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation. This was an event of major and lasting significance and I am glad to see that it is being properly celebrated by many churches and other organisations, including of course our own Institution. We were delighted to be involved in the major Luther 500 parade and open-air service in Portadown in May organised by the Orange and Black Institutions. That was an amazing and memorable evening. As an Institution we have special Reformation meetings planned for later in the year.
We are, first and foremost, a religious institution. We hold fast to the great truths of the Protestant Reformed faith. We thank God that those truths – which were hidden for so long under the darkness of Romanism – were rediscovered by Martin Luther. God moved in Luther’s life and saved him - and Luther became God’s instrument in the revival of true religion and the reformation of the church.
There are many important aspects to the Reformation but the key one is all about salvation. We can only become Christians by faith alone in Christ alone. That was what changed Luther. We need to hear more of this glorious gospel preached in our pulpits and proclaimed across our land.
Our land needs to return to the Lord. It is my prayer that God will send another Reformation and another Revival in our day – not only in Ulster, but across the nation. May the words of the Psalmist be our prayer – “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?”