A "sensitive and high profile project" looking at the Orange Order's relationship with the wider community in Fermanagh has just been launched.
As County Grand Master Norman Johnston explained: "This project will allow us to demonstrate our commitment to good relations in Fermanagh by engaging with a wider section of the general community than ever before. We want to continue to play an active role in our local communities and raise awareness of our community work. We are aware that some people have misconceptions about the Orange Order and we want to use this project to address this."
The project is being funded by Fermanagh District Council and undertaken by the Maguiresbridge based Green Hat consultancy, which has extensive experience of working on good relations issues throughout Northern Ireland
Mr. Johnston said: "We are looking forward to working with Green Hat and the Council on this piece of work, which is the first of its kind ever undertaken."
Green Hat's Director, Bryony Flanagan, said: "We understand that this is both a sensitive and high profile project, and recognise the leadership that County Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge are showing in undertaking this work. Green Hat brings an outsider perspective to the project and it is a bold move by the County Grand Lodge to work with us on this. We are absolutely delighted to be undertaking this innovative and exciting project.
"The idea of an organisation called Green Hat working with the County Grand Orange Lodge might raise a few eyebrows. The name comes from Edward de Bono's holistic thinking model featuring six thinking hats, all different colours.
The green hat represents creativity and curiosity, and as such alternative ways of thinking. We think this fits perfectly with the ethos of this project," she added.
Fermanagh District Council's Good Relations Officer, Tommy McLaughlin, explained "The council has been undertaking good relations activities for many years and this project will essentially look at how the Orange Order in Fermanagh engages with its local communities. The main activities will include mapping existing community activities of the Orange Order in the county, consulting with both its own membership and other relevant stakeholders, and producing an action plan. The project is being funded by Fermanagh District Council as part of its on-going commitment to good relations and in keeping with the District Council's vision of a shared future."
The project fits within the Orange Order's policy of building relationships with the wider community.
Work on the audit and consultation is already underway and it is expected that the action plan will be completed by the end of March.