Belfast Orange hall welcomes visitors from across cultural divide

An Orange hall in Belfast has welcomed young visitors from the other side of Northern Ireland's cultural divide.

Around 20 young Gaelic games players from the Republic of Ireland and Scotland, along with their parents, were given a tour of Ballynafeigh Orange Hall in the Ormeau Road in south Belfast on Saturday.

The initiative came on the day that DUP leader Arlene Foster was taking part in a major Orange parade in Scotland.

The young people were in Belfast to attend a Gaelic games tournament at Cherryvale playing fields, close to the Orange hall.

The idea for the visit came from Malcolm McFarlane, chairman of Bredagh GAC, which hosted the tournament, and Stephen Biggerstaff, chairman of the Ballynafeigh Cultural and Heritage Society.

Ballynafeigh Orange Hall hosts Gaelic games players
Gary Watson (left) from Ballynafeigh Cultural and Heritage Society, and Liam McKenna (right), from Bredagh GAC, during a tour of the Ballynafeigh Orange Hall in Belfast (Michael Cooper/PA)

The two men met at a workshop organised by Clanmil Housing to create a Residents' Charter for a new shared development in the area.

Mr Biggerstaff said they are proud of their historic hall, and always keen to welcome visitors and share their history and culture.

"It's great to have these visitors with us today. As well as some competitive matches, we hope they've enjoyed the tours and understand a little more about the history and heritage of the Loyal Institutions and what they are about," he said.

Ballynafeigh Orange Hall hosts Gaelic games players
Bredagh GAC chairman Malcolm McFarlane receives a gift from Ballynafeigh Cultural and Heritage Society chairman Stephen Biggerstaff (Michael Cooper/PA)

Mr McFarlane said: "Ballynafeigh Orange Hall is a well-known landmark in the area but isn't a place that GAA members would normally visit. Offering tours of the building seemed like a really good idea."

The visitors heard about the origins and history of the Orange Order and saw examples of some of the banners and regalia used by the Loyal Orders in the Ballynafeigh District.

The Ormeau Road was the scene of frequent riots during the mid 1990s over the route of an Orange parade. However, the area has since been peaceful.

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