Two alleged victims of child sex abuse by Orangemen in Fermanagh decades ago claim the Orange Order were made aware of the allegations against several of its members “several times” over the years but “did nothing about it”.

Sara and Jackie (not their real names) have claimed there were attempts made by the Orange Order to “protect lodge members” after the pair claimed, independently, that they had been sexually abused and even raped by several men who are still members of the institution.

A third person, Sara’s father, claims he resigned from his lodge when he was made aware of the allegations in 1998 and says the Orange Order is now “refusing” to allow him to re-join a different lodge because “they are protecting the abusers”.

Both women who are related approached The Impartial Reporter almost six months ago with serious allegations about the Loyal Orange Institution and what they said they experienced when they were children.

Sara claims at least six members of senior rank in the lodge even witnessed numerous incidents in and outside an Orange Hall which included her being sexually abused. The abuse, she says, went on for years during band practice, parades and other Orange related events, such as before and after the annual Twelfth celebration.

And she claims before approaching the RUC that she raised a string of complaints with the lodge but “they were not taken seriously” and no action was taken.

“The Orange Order knew what was going on because at least six of its members [names the individuals] watched as I was sexually abused by others in an around an Orange Hall.

“Those men laughed while I was touched and other men used not just their hands but their penises to abuse me. They thought it was a bit of fun, but it was abuse,” she said.

Sara says “none of the Orangemen tried to stop it”.

“The Orange Order is absolutely rotten to the core,” she added.

“The people marching on the Twelfth have no idea what it means to wear the sash, they are just there because you belong to something. If you are not part of, you are excluded from a whole lot other things. You have victims’ groups, you have information and financial support where they will lend you money in times of need.

“When the Troubles were going on it was another layer of protection for all of those abusers and they got away with it,” she said.

She claims to have been told by an Orangeman that she was “opening a can of worms” by speaking out because she was “threatening the institution”.

“I was daring to stand up and go to the police and go to my doctor and go to anyone who would listen. I was willing to go and talk about these people and what they had done.

“The names of the abusers meant something in those areas, they were good servants of the Orange Order, a good servant to the church. I was going to rock the boat, I was going to bring it all into such disrepute, that’s why they didn’t want me being heard,” she said.

Jackie says she also complained to named individuals -- after she had reported it to police -- during a meeting attended by Orange Order representatives in Enniskillen 16 years ago but it was not followed up. At the time she held a senior position in the Association of Loyal Orangewomen.

She recalls the meeting, provides the location of where it took place and names the members, she said she spoke to.

“I spoke on behalf of me and [Sara] but I was told that we were wasting our time pushing this case because the Orange Order was dealing with it.

“We were told they were offering legal support to the men in question. This was all about protecting those men and the name of the institution and the Orange Order,” she said.

Jackie said she was “disgusted” at the “lack of interest” in the allegations relating to her and Sara, particularly given her position in the Association of Loyal Orangewomen.

“I was high up in the association, I held senior positions.

“I was told they [the alleged abusers] were powerful men. It appeared to me that this was about keeping it hush hush, to get the boys off, to keep their good name. These guys had very big opinions of themselves after all,” she said.

Jackie explained that she attended a meeting of the County Grand Lodge in a committee room in the Unionist Hall in Enniskillen.

“The County Lodge men were in another room and they had a meeting. It was a Thursday afternoon then we joined together in the main hall for tea. During our meeting there was lodge business discussed and dealt with.

“I was standing beside a senior figure in the association of Loyal Orangewomen and she and I were having a cup of tea together. She brought up the subject of the sex abuse. She said, ‘I heard you are bringing a court case against these men, I heard [Sara] is too. It has come to the attention of the Orange Order and you are wasting your time because the Orange Order are going to protect them’,” she said.

Jackie claims the senior figure told her “there was another case” involving another Orangeman [and named him].

“Her exact words were: do you think the Orange Order with allow these men to be brought down in a child abuse case without them doing something about it?’

“I said, ‘what do you mean?’ She said it had been discussed and then another person who was also there for the conversation told me that ‘we should give up, ‘that we were not going to win this’.

“I resigned after that because I knew the Orange Order was going to protect paedophiles,” she said.

She names another Orangeman whom she says “went through me for a shortcut” about the allegations when he saw her. She claims he rejected the allegations made against the other men.

“In my view there was a cover up by the Orange Order because I know that more than one police officer had been talking about our cases to Orangemen.

“It was made clear to me that if this got out it would have ruined the reputation of the Orange Order and ruin the reputation of the men,” claimed Jackie.

She says she and Sara were “fighting a losing battle”.

“If the man in the police station that you were speaking to wasn’t in the Orange Order then someone who was on duty with him was and because of that everyone, even the dogs on the street, knew what we had been saying.”

She says her case was later dropped by the Public Prosecution Service “due to insufficient evidence” and the alleged abusers are still members of the Orange Order.

“You cannot bring down the Orange Order or these men. It’s like a brotherhood, you are there to look after each other. You are supposed to stand up for your Christian Brother or Sister. Those are the rules of the Order,” she said.

Being a member of the Orange Lodge is “like an insurance policy” she said.

“I believe it is a rotten association, I believe there are child abusers and rapists within the ranks, I believe they have got away with my abuse and [Sara’s] abuse and that this has been covered up,” she said.

Sara’s father, who resigned from the Orange Order after learning of his daughter’s alleged abuse has also claimed the institution is “protecting the Orangemen”.