THE innocent victims of the Troubles will never be forgotten, the Grand Master, Edward Stevenson told the main county parade in Limavady during the Twelfth.
Elected Grand Master seven months ago, Mr Stevenson said that he had promised to keep those who had lost their lives here “at the top of my agenda”
Speaking to thousands of Orangemen, he added: “Some of you may have attended the very moving service in the Ulster Hall when we remembered those brethren who had been murdered and the loved ones they left behind.
“It was indeed an inspirational service and I know that many of those who attended that Sunday afternoon were uplifted by the Christian words from the pulpit and the fact that the Orange Institution had not forgotten their husbands, sons, brothers and friends.
“The Orange Order paid a very heavy price during the Troubles. As an institution we encouraged our members to join the security forces and protect the country against terrorism, from wherever it came.
“Many of the people who were murdered in the Troubles were Orangemen and Orangewomen serving in the Ulster Defence Regiment and other Army regiments and the RUC. They paid the ultimate sacrifice because they wore the uniform of this country, although many of them were brutally murdered while going about their normal lives in the community.
“And there were those who died because they were Orangemen and Protestants. They died because the IRA were embarked on a bloody sectarian war. They may try to re-write history but we will not allow them to do so.
“The recent report by the Historical Enquiries Team pointed the finger very clearly at the sectarian murderers of the IRA and I have no doubt there will be many other similar verdicts.
“Protestants and Orangemen must engage with the HET so that the wider public can hear the truth about what really happened in this society over three decades.
“During that time the Orange Institution lost 330 members to terrorism – very nearly one in ten of the people killed during the Troubles. It is a frightening statistic but it shows that our members and our families have not been oblivious to pain and grief.
“In fact we have been at the forefront of protecting this country against evil people and we have suffered terribly as a result.”
The Grand Master said the deaths amounted to “ethnic cleansing by the IRA.”
“They may not like it because it does not fit in with the romantic myth of a justified armed struggle that they are trying so hard to create.
“But let me say very clearly. The violence of the IRA, or indeed any terrorist organisation in Northern Ireland, was never justified. The people who lost their lives to terrorism are the true innocent victims of the Troubles.
“The innocent victims of violence must never be confused with the perpetrators of violence.
“And we must not forget about their families. They live with the grief and anguish every single day of their lives. The day they lost their loved ones was for many the single defining moment of the rest of their lives. These people need our support, our care and compassion.
“The Orange Institution will not be found wanting. We will do everything possible to help the victims, to highlight their right to be heard and to make sure that history records properly what they went through. We will remember them.”