Although the United Irishmen were trying to unite Catholics and Protestants behind their goal, northern County Armagh was undergoing fierce sectarian conflict. Catholics and Protestants set up rural "vigilante" groups – on the Catholic side was the "Defenders" and on the Protestant side was the "Peep-o'-Day Boys". In July 1795, the year the Orange Order formed, a Reverend Devine had held a sermon at Drumcree Church to commemorate the "Battle of the Boyne". In his History of Ireland Vol I (published in 1809), the historian Francis Plowden described the events that followed this sermon:
[Reverend Devine] so worked up the minds of his audience, that upon retiring from service, on the different roads leading to their respective homes, they gave full scope to the anti-papistical zeal, with which he had inspired them... falling upon every Catholic they met, beating and bruising them without provocation or distinction, breaking the doors and windows of their houses, and actually murdering two unoffending Catholics in a bog. This unprovoked atrocity of the Protestants revived and redoubled religious rancour. The flame spread and threatened a contest of extermination...
It is no secret that a persecution is now raging in this country… the only crime is… profession of the Roman Catholic faith. Lawless banditti have constituted themselves judges….
Later apologists rather implausibly deny any connection between the Peep-o'-Day Boys and the first Orangemen or, even less plausibly, between the Orangemen and the mass wrecking of Catholic cottages in Armagh in the months following 'the Diamond' — all of them, however, acknowledge the movement's lower class origins.
"As for the Orangemen, we have rather a difficult card to play...we must to a certain degree uphold them, for with all their licentiousness, on them we must rely for the preservation of our lives and properties should critical times occur".
During "The Troubles", the Order had a fractious relationship with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), loyalist paramilitaries the Independent Orange Order, and the Free Presbyterian Church. The Order urged its members not to join these organisations, and it is only recently that some of these intra-Unionist breaches have been healed.
- The Grand Orange Lodge of British America Benefit Fund
- Lord Enniskillen Memorial Orange Orphan Society
- Orange Foundation
- The Orange Orphans Society - Registered Charity Number 1068498
"No person who at any time has been a Roman Catholic … shall be admitted into the Institution, except after permission given by a vote of seventy five per cent of the members present founded on testimonials of good character …"
"In the United States the oppressed of all nations find an asylum, and all that is asked in return is that they become law-abiding citizens. Orangemen, Ribbonmen, and United Irishmen are alike unknown. They are all entitled to protection by the laws of the country."
America offered a new beginning, and
"...most descendents of the Ulster Presbyterians of the eighteenth century and even many new Protestant Irish immigrants turned their backs on all associations with Ireland and melted into the American Protestant mainstream."
On the right of Orangemen to march in quasi-military fashion through areas, regardless of the views of the residents, Orangemen often cite the example of the Klan and the American Nazi Party. In the Orders petition to the Northern Ireland Parades Commission in June 2002, on the Orders right to march, they cited American case law which had upheld the right to public demonstrations by both the Klan and the American Nazi Party.
“We viewed the [Orange Order] as similar to the KKK - so bare-faced and confident enough in the bigoted status quo that they wore bowler hats and sashes rather than white robes and pointed hoods.”