By Peter Wilson
It seems like most people on Twitter are only there to be outraged. Having a proper understanding of the correct role of government in a forward-moving society, and living in Northern Ireland, I am outraged all the time.
This week my attention was drawn to a tweet by Cllr Christopher Stalford, a seemingly competent Belfast DUP councillor and supposedly one of their ‘sounder’ members, saying that he was delighted to have secured cross-party support for £100,000 of funding for Sandy Row Orange Hall, a grand building that dates from 1883. As with all Victorian buildings, it’s becoming a little worn around the edges and so needs a bit of money thrown at it to keep it shipshape.
Delighted to have secured cross-party support for £100k investment in Sandy Row Orange Hall. Now on to due diligence and then committee.
— Christopher Stalford (@CDMStalfordDUP) September 22, 2015
Where could this money come from? From the money raised by members? Not on your life, it’s coming from the ‘Local Investment Fund’. In other words, you.
Now I won’t be so dismissive as to say there is no social benefit to be derived from the up keep of such a fine piece of architecture. The hall is home to Sandy Row’s number five district and lodges use it to meet and socialise. It can also be used for a number of other functions, as most orange halls typically are. Community centres, nurseries and even MPs surgeries can all be found in them.
The building of the hall was financed by a charitable society with no public money at all and it has been maintained by the organisation all this time in that way. Now, it seems, as the Orange Order’s membership wanes, the upkeep of its premises becomes the job of general taxation.
I dare say that the self-reliant men who funded the original building of the hall will be turning in their graves at what their organisation has become – a begging bowl, a tax money reliant shadow of its former self. Another voluntary organisation getting bailed out by you and me.