John Coulter calls on the Masons to save Stormont. Dr John Coulter is a columnist with the Irish Daily Star.
It’s time for the ‘Funny Handshake Brigade’ of Irish Freemasons to get their gloves off and save Stormont.
The Masons may be branded suspicious because of their secretive oaths, and ridiculed by fundamentalist churches because of their use of Biblical Old Testament characters in their rituals, but Irish Freemasonry knows how to get the job done!
At its height, Irish Masons numbered some 40,000 across the island and while the Protestants-only Marching Orders have become tainted with contentious parade disputes, the Masonic has remained above the controversy.
Irish Freemasonry is interdenominational and allows both Catholics and Protestants to sit together in Masonic temples and refer to each other as ‘brother’.
Indeed, the real power base behind the Unionist-dominated original Stormont Parliament was the Masons, not the more public Orange Order.
The most senior of the Protestant Orders, the Royal Black Institution, was often dubbed ‘the poor man’s freemasonic’ because of the expense in being a Mason.
Many of the symbols used in Masonry are shared with the Orange and Black. While Masons hold church services, they very rarely – if ever – hold parades.
The Masons have a great reputation for charity fund-raising, looking after members’ widows and at one time, building schools in Ireland.
The Masonic was seen as a link between the upper and middle classes in Ireland and the working men in the same way as the Orange Order was once the cement between the Unionist aristocracy and the working class Protestants.
So bring in the Masons to sort out the Stormont debacle over welfare reform. For generations, it has been rumoured a Masonic Lodge existed at Stormont.
There has been a constant stream of politicians and organisations trying to mend Stormont’s woes, but all to no avail as the institutions edge steadily closer to the abyss and total collapse.
So why can’t Ireland’s Masons have some more secret meetings and see if they can unlock the deadlock?
The Masons created lodges for all kinds of people – coppers have their own lodge, as did Ireland’s Jewish community and even the journalists at one time. Even the Vatican was reputed to have had its own lodge!
In spite of eight centuries of sectarian conflict on the island, the Masonic temple was the one venue where Catholics, Protestants and other faiths could meet in harmony and reach agreement on matters.
Surely this can still be achieved in the 21st century?
In spite of the Bible holding a central position within each Masonic temple during a meeting, the order still has faced criticism from the fundamentalists in both Protestantism and Catholicism who branded Freemasonry as a rival religion to Christianity.
Supporters of Masonic rituals maintain they tell the tales of Biblical characters; opponents claim the rituals resemble Satanism or something from a horror slasher movie!
While Catholics can become Masons, many in the Catholic Church hierarchy have frowned on membership of the Brotherhood. Perhaps this is because Freemasonry would take away from Catholic holy orders or secret societies, such as Opus Dei.
But the principal reason for Catholic opposition was that many Protestants held dual membership of the Orange and the Masonic, giving the false impression Freemasonry was part of the Loyal Orders.
Rather than lock the politicians into intensive talks, get them into the Masonic, get trouser legs rolled up, chests bared, and get the business done of making Stormont work for the sake of all the people of Ireland.