BY Ryan McDougall | August 16 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Labour councillor defends taking top Orange Order post

A Scottish Labour councillor who has taken a top post with the Orange Order has maintained it does not compromise his ability to represent his Catholic constituents.

The Scottish Labour Party was criticised earlier this month after it emerged that the party’s Airdrie councillor Ian McNeil had been appointed executive officer of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, the only full-time salaried role within the organisation.

Questioned by the SCO, Mr McNeil claimed the Orange Order were not anti-Catholic.


Fellow Christians

Mr McNeil said that Catholics are fellow Christians, and that his election agent, Brian Brady, and many of his friends and family, are Catholics.

“What’s happened is that we’ve been branded anti-Catholic, your newspaper has been part of that of course, by a group who have got a core agenda against the Orange institution,” he said.

“Secular Scotland is the real enemy of Christians in my opinion. I’m sure the Catholic Church would agree with that,” he said.


Canon Tom White

Last year, Canon Tom White, parish priest of St Alphonsus’ parish in Glasgow, was spat on and attacked as an Orange march passed his church.

Mr McNeil said the attacks were ‘absolutely shocking, disgusting, and appalling.’

In 2017, photographs were published in a national newspaper showing people at a fancy dress party at an Orange Hall in Airdrie dressed as Adolf Hitler, Eva Braun, the Pope being hanged, and Holocaust victims. Others showed people in blackface.


Halloween party

Mr McNeil claimed the incident was ‘not representative’ of the wider Orange Order, and that those responsible were ‘silly, young, foolish people.’

He added: “Halloween used to be about dressing up in daft things and I’ve got to be honest, I’ve been at a Halloween dance before, not recently, but a fair few years ago, where the Pope was carried in on a chair and won first prize in the fancy dress competition, which was a great laugh.

“It was just meant to be a laugh. But as disgusting as that was at the time, that was 15-20 years ago. It’s not really relevant.”



Last year, the Orange Order promoted a book titled the Irredeemable Papacy, written by member David Bryce.

Mr McNeil said: “That was a member of the Orange Institution with his view, a dig at the papacy.

“That’s what the whole reformed Church was about—reformers take issue with certain doctrines of the Catholic Church. The author of that book chose to do that, but I don’t think that was anti-Catholic.”

He added that ‘there’s only a couple of wee things that are different’ when comparing Catholicism and Protestantism.

“However, we respect Catholics’ right to worship however they see fit and we would encourage everybody to worship the Lord.”



Asked about Mr McNeil’s membership of the Orange Order, a spokesperson for the Scottish Labour party said: “Being a member or office holder in other organisations does not itself prohibit a person from being a member of holding elected office in the party.
“The rule is that this membership is declared in any register of interests.

“The Labour party is the party of equality, and has had a long relationship with Scotland’s Catholic community precisely because Catholic values based on social justice helped shape Labour values.”

A spokesperson for North Lanarkshire Council said they do not comment on the personal matters of elected officials.

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