PLANS for a £3.6 million Orange Order interpretive and outreach programme will be transformational, a senior Orange official involved in the project has claimed.
Ballycarry man Dr David Hume, who is the Order’s Director of Services, was project leader of the team which successfully secured the funding from the Special European Union Programmes Body, and was on home ground as guest speaker at the annual Williamite Dinner of Magheramorne LOL 291.
The event at the Old Orange Hall in Magheramorne was well attended and those present heard from Dr Hume about the plans, which will result in the creation of interpretive centres in Belfast and Loughgall, where the first warrants for lodges were issued in September 1795.
He said the plans included an “unprecedented” outreach programme to explain the Order’s history and ethos to the wider community.
He outlined some of the unique artefacts held by the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, including William III’s gloves and saddlecloth, a collarette worn by the young George Best, paintings, documents. minute books and many hundreds of other items.
The planning for the application went on over several years and reflected the view of the Grand Lodge that there was a serious need for education about the Orange tradition.
Dr Hume noted that the schools which are most engaged with the Orange Order’s existing educational programme are from the maintained sector, and he paid tribute to those schools who had supported the application to the European funders through letters of support.
He said it was disappointing that Larne had not been among the 13 councils who supported the outreach proposal, but thanked the local lodge for their letter of support - one of 90 from lodges who pledged to provide items for exhibition in the new centres.
Mr Hume outlined the work of the staff at Schomberg House, which in addition to administration includes lobbying, production of a monthly newspaper, serving Orange charities, media and public relations work, educational programme outreach, research and other aspects.
At present there are six staff and they will be augmented by five more through the new outreach programme, and also at least one and possibly two other staff would be employed by the spring of 2013.
This was in addition to seven development officers and support staff of Orange Community Network, who are also funded through European peace programmes.