The Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Rt. Wor. Bro. Edward Stevenson, has written to the members of the Orange Institution directing that all activities should cease with immediate effect in response to the latest developments surrounding the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
The letter, which has been issued in a direct response to the Prime Minister’s appeal to limit social interaction, instructs members that all meetings, Church services, events and parades of the Orange Institution should stop immediately and until further notice.
This is action is unprecedented but deemed necessary at this time.
The Grand Master said: “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.”
He added: “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 being encouraged to maintain contact with all members, particularly older members, at this time and to pray diligently for each other, the wider Orange Family and the health professionals as they work to tackle the spread of the virus.
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 from today (Tuesday, March 17). Grand Lodge Headquarters will close from Friday, March 20.
The situation will be kept under constant review by Grand Lodge and the decisions regarding the resumption of the Institution’s activities will be guided by advice from health professionals.