GAA players cross cultural divide to visit Belfast Orange hall

GAA club also welcomes visitors from the Orange Order in cross-community initiative

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

About 20 GAA players from the Republic and Scotland, along with their parents, were given a tour of Ballynafeigh Orange Hall in the Ormeau Road on Saturday.

A nearby GAA club returned the favour and welcomed several people from Ballynafeigh Orange Hall to their playing fields.

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 GAA tournament at Cherryvale, 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.

The two men met at a workshop organised by Clanmil Housing to create a residents’ charter for a new shared development in the area.

Historic hall

Mr Biggerstaff said the society is 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.

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. – PA