We meet today to give thanks to God for the civil and religious freedoms which we enjoy, and to promote and celebrate the events of the Glorious Revolution 1688-1690.
The Glorious Revolution was not an Irish affair, not a battle between Protestant and Catholic, Unionist and Nationalist, not even a battle between the British and the Irish.
It was a European affair, a battle between freedom and tyranny, tolerance and bigotry, the common good and narrow self interest; and a battle which all faiths and none celebrated!
When news broke that William of Orange had been victorious at the Boyne, Services of Thanksgiving were held in the Reformed Churches of Europe including our own St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, and Te Deums were sung in the Roman Catholic Cathedrals of Austria and Spain. Even the Vatican had its own Papal Celebrations!
Sadly, we have often misunderstood and misrepresented the Glorious Revolution. And this has been to our detriment and loss.
Ireland was centre stage for one of the most significant events in the history of the modern world. The civil and religious liberties, and common law, which we enjoy and take for granted, took a significant step forward by the events of the Glorious Revolution on Irish soil.
Ireland can be proud of her role in this pivotal period in the history of the free world, and should seek to promote it through education, cultural tourism and the arts.
In recent years, the continuing relevance of the Glorious Revolution has officially been acknowledged by the Irish State. When revising the Statute Books, the Bill of Rights 1688 was highlighted and maintained by the Statute Law Revision Act 2007
The then Taoiseach commending the enactment of Statute Law Revision Bill, spoke of “the continuing relevance” of the Bill of Rights. Dr. Martin Mansergh described the Bill of Rights as “special” and “one of the foundation stones to our legislation.” Senator David Norris said “On the Bill of Rights 1688, the Leader was right to hone in on that. What interesting legislation… the Glorious Revolution… was to secure religious liberty”.
The Bill of Rights remains a foundation stone for the Irish State. This is a reason for the Orange tradition to be highlighted and appreciated by all sections of Irish Society. We may never agree on the grounds of religion or politics, but we can agree on the grounds of civil and religious liberty for all and the rule of our common law. Thankfully more and more people realise this.
President Mary McAleese recognising this reality has made special efforts during her presidency, to make Ireland a “warm house” for Protestants. Yes she has made her mistakes, the odd faux pas, but who hasn’t? All in all, she has worked for a shared and peaceful future, a shared and peaceful Ireland.
Her Twelfth of July Reception at the Aras an Uachtarain, groundbreaking at the start, has thankfully become a fixed date on the Presidential calendar. For President McAleese to officially recognise the Orange Tradition in this way is highly commendable and has paved the way for mutual understanding and respect. The opening of The Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre at Old Bridge House, and the funding of CADOLEMO is just the beginning of recognition by the Irish State.
Her trip to Brakey Orange Hall in County Cavan was another step in the right direction, and the Orange community gave her a warm and unforgettable welcome. Her comments that you can be “Irish and British, Irish and Orange” were highly significant. They mark a shift in the Republican mindset and lay a foundation stone for equal citizenship rights to be extended to the Irish in the Republic of Ireland who also feel British. British passports should be available to Irish citizens south of the border, just as Irish passports are available to British citizens north of the border. This would be a real and tangible sign of change and hope.
As an Orangeman, who is Irish and British, Catholic and Protestant, can I thank President McAleese for all that she has done, and wish her every blessing in retirement. May she leave office with a sense of satisfaction and achievement. And before she does, won’t it be great to see HM the Queen afforded that much anticipated and long overdue visit to Dublin. And I have no doubt that the great majority of Irish people will extend a warm and friendly welcome to HM the Queen, just as they did to her grandfather King George V, a century ago next year.
The next President needs to continue the good work of making Ireland a “warm house” for Protestants and we may well have another Irish Protestant as President, the 3rd in the history of the State.
After Ireland broke from the Union with Great Britain and Northern Ireland, measures were taken on the basis of Rome Rule and delivered with Republican rhetoric. Sadly, they were taken by a small elite for the sole interests of the majority community with no real concern for the minority.
W.B. Yeats warned against such short sightedness and narrow mindedness. During a debate in Seanad, 1925, he exclaimed:
“I am proud to consider myself a typical man of that minority. We against whom you have done this thing, are no petty people. We are one of the great stocks of Europe. We are the people of Burke; we are the people of Grattan; we are the people of Swift, the people of Emmet, the people of Parnell. We have created the most of the modern literature of this country. We have created the best of its political intelligence…You have defined our position and have given us a popular following. If we have not lost our stamina then your victory will be brief, and your defeat final, and when it comes this nation may be transformed.”
Thank God we are starting to see the transformation of this nation. The transformation will take time and continued effort, but it will be a transformation, none the less. If only the words of Yeats had been heeded, then we would have had a very different 20th Century.
What of Ireland in this 21st Century?
Ireland must be one where civil and religious liberties and the common law are maintained and protected. With this solid foundation in place, Ireland will be a place where not just the Orange and Green have a home, but where every other colour of the rainbow has a home as well.
This would be an Ireland that all could be proud of, an Ireland where all receive a welcome, an Ireland where all can make a home. This would be an Ireland, neither isolated nor insular, but outward looking and actively engaged on the global stage, an Ireland confident and mature enough to improve its special relationship with the UK and Commonwealth countries, an Ireland working towards the growth of democracy and development throughout the world.
The history books are yet to be written. We all have our part to play. We must cement the peace, improve community relations, build on our principles and ideas, and complete the process of transformation.
Rev. S.T.R. Gamble