Here follows the text of the Grand Master's address on the progress of Irish Freemasonry in 2004
GRAND MASTER’S REPORT 2004
My third year as Grand Master is now drawing to a close and has proved to be a challenging time of both consolidation and progress.
Sadly I must begin by referring to the passing of distinguished Brethren to the Grand Lodge above. Certain names feature prominently viz. R.W.Bro. the Ven. E.Brian Snow, Past Senior Grand Chaplain; V.W.Bro. Robert Jones. OBE, Past Grand Master’s Standard Bearer; R.W.Bro. William S. Cunningham, Past Grand Treasurer; R.W.Bro. Thomas W. Nicholson, Past Grand Master’s Standard Bearer; these, with many other dear, departed Brethren were great supporters of Freemasonry. We extend our deepest sympathy to their families and friends.
The minutes of the four quarterly meetings of The Grand Lodge of Ireland are available on our website irish-freemasons.org and will be printed in full in the Annual Report for 2004 so it is unnecessary for me to report in detail.
Our March meeting was hosted by The Provincial Grand Lodge of the Midland Counties where we enjoyed the excellent facilites of the Keadeen Hotel in Newbridge, Co. Kildare. We are indebted to R.W. Bro. Kenneth Dunne for his invitation. I confirmed and invested R.W.Bro. Richard Ensor as Chairman of the Metropolitan Board; V.W.Bro. Robert T. McCaffrey, as Grand Steward of Charities and V.W.Bro. Kenneth Abernethy as Grand Lodge Standard Bearer.
The June meeting was held in Freemasons’ Hall Dublin. We were glad to welcome two visiting delegations. The Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium was represented by M.W.Bro. Alexandre Cleven, Grand Master and R.W.Bro. Jose van Runckelen, Grand Secretary; the United Grand Lodge of England was represented by V.W.Bro. John Hamill, PGJD. M.W.Bro. Alexandre Cleven invested R.W. Bro. Michael Walker, Grand Secretary with the Medal of Merit of the Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium for services to Freemasonry over the years.
It was announced that a letter from the Deputy Grand Master had been circulated to all Lodge Secretaries advising that R.W.Bro. Walker had indicated
his intention to retire as Grand Secretary with effect from the end of June 2005
and inviting applications from suitably qualified Brethren to fill the vacancy which will arise. Applications are currently being processed by an Appointments Committee chaired by the Assistant Grand Master.
Later in June, R.W.Bro. William Mawhinney, Deputy Grand Master travelled to Brussels to represent Grand Lodge at the celebrations to mark the Silver Jubilee of the Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium.
In October Grand Lodge met in Newtownards where excellent facilities were provided at the Queen’s Hall by R.W.Bro. Robert Armstrong and the Brethren of the Province of Down. Officers of Grand Lodge for 2005 were elected. I am privileged to have been re-elected for a fourth year and I gladly confirmed the reappointment of R.W.Bro. George Dunlop as Deputy Grand Master and R.W. Bro. William Mawhinney as Assistant Grand Master. Their commitment and support is greatly appreciated. It is most encouraging to note that all meetings of Grand Lodge held during the year, were very well attended.
Each year I visit some of our Provincial Grand Lodges. I like to meet and talk to as many Brethren as possible. On Feb 28th I attended the Installation Meeting of the Province of Antrim and was warmly received by R.W.Bro. Adam McKinley
and his Officers. I attended the Province of Meath meeting on March 24th in the Community Hall of the St John’s Sheltered Housing facility near Virginia, Co. Cavan. The meeting was chaired by R.W.Bro. Cecil Tilson, Provincial Deputy Grand Master.
I visited Cork on May 4th for the Provincial Grand Lodge of Munster where R.W.Bro. Alan Campbell made me very welcome. A few days later I welcomed
R.W.Bro. Harvey Heavener, PGM of Wicklow & Wexford with Officers, Brethren and ladies to Freemasons’ Hall, Dublin. Following the Provincial Grand Lodge Meeting, we joined the Ladies for a barbeque supper.
On June 9th accompanied by the R.W.Bro. Michael Walker, I attended the Provincial Grand Lodge of North Connaught meeting in Sligo at the invitation of R.W. Bro. George Ginnelly, where a large number of senior Brethren from the Northern Provinces were also present.
On each occasion I addressed the meeting and I came away impressed by the confidence and optimism for the future success of Freemasonry expressed by all Brethren whom I met.
I received a visit in September from R.W.Bro. Lau Kee Siong, Grand Inspector for Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand where Irish Freemasonry is thriving and there is a possibility of more Lodges being constituted.
At this point I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the loyalty and support that I receive from our Provincial Grand Masters both in Ireland and Overseas including our Grand Inspectors. These Brethren are in effect, area Managers for the Grand Lodge of Ireland and without exception carry out their duties in an exemplary manner.
Last year the Police Service of Northern Ireland announced the intention to make an Order requiring officers to notify the Chief Constable of their membership of Freemasonry which implies that membership would impair their
ability to be impartial in dealing with the public. Since Freemasonry is non-sectarian and non-political, this requirement has no validity. It should be noted that in July 2001 the European Court of Human rights ruled that Freemasonry is neither an illegal, criminal nor secret association and that in a modern democratic society it is unnecessary to require public servants not to be Freemasons. On behalf of our Brethren, we made repeated submissions to the PSNI to no avail because the Order was confirmed and implemented. After consultation with our Legal advisors, we applied to the High Court in Belfast
requesting a Judicial Review on the grounds that the PSNI did not have the power to implement such an Order. We were granted a Review to be heard on 11th and 12th November, meanwhile the PSNI suspended the Order. In mid October, our legal team was contacted by the legal representatives of the PSNI confirming that the Order would be formally withdrawn which seemed to suggest that the PSNI acknowledged that the Order was not lawfully made and therefore there was little to be gained with proceeding with the Judicial Review. This was confirmed in the High Court on November 11th. The news immediately became public knowledge. We issued a previously prepared Press Release which was widely reported in the Northern Ireland Media. I gave an interview on BBC
Radio Ulster Talkback programme on the subject. I am very glad that we were able to successfully defend the rights of those of our Brethren employed by the PSNI. I must pay tribute to our Grand Registrar, VW Bro. Arthur Moran, a highly respected member of the legal profession, for his invaluable input into this and other matters.
This year, in August, we hosted the Tripartite Meeting in Dublin when we discuss matters of mutual interest with our counterparts in the United Grand Lodge of England, represented by RW Bro Lord Northampton, Pro-Grand Master and VW Bro. Bob Morrow, Grand Secretary; and the Grand Lodge of Scotland represented by MW Bro. Sir Archibald Orr-Ewing, Grand Master Mason and RW Bro. Martin McGibbon, Grand Secretary. We were represented by RW Bro. George Dunlop, Deputy Grand Master who chaired the meetings supported by RW Bro Michael Walker, Grand Secretary.
On October 8th & 9th it was our turn to host the European Grand Secretaries Annual Conference. Twenty six European Regular Grand Lodges were represented and enjoyed a successful two days. The working sessions were chaired by RW Bro Michael Walker supported by VW Bro Barry Lyons.
On Saturday evening entertainment was arranged by RW Bro John Rowden in the Grand Lodge room featuring Professor Peter Sweeney, internationally renowned organist who played our newly installed digital organ for the first time. Professor Sweeney, with supporting artistes, provided what was probably the best night’s musical entertainment we have ever enjoyed much to the delight of our foreign visitors, their ladies and all of us.
Earlier this year, our Grand Inspector in Malta, RW Bro Joseph Cordina advised that our Maltese Lodges, with the support of English and Scottish Brethren on the Island, wished to form their own Grand Lodge. Following consultation with the Grand Lodges of England and Scotland, we indicated our support. This entailed a great deal of work for our Grand Secretary who assisted in the preparation of the new Laws & Constitution and also gave advice on various procedural matters. The date of November 18th was agreed for the Constitution of the new Sovereign Grand Lodge of Malta. Nine Brethren and four wives travelled from Ireland for the event. I opened an occasional meeting of the Grand Lodge of Ireland with RW Bro George Dunlop SW; RW Bro William Mawhinney JW; RW Bro. Michael Walker GS. All offices were filled by Brethren from Ireland. I constituted the Sovereign Grand Lodge of Malta, a historic experience. The first time the Grand Lodge of Ireland had sponsored the formation of another Grand Lodge. I then invested and installed RW Bro Cordina as the first Grand Master of the new Grand Lodge. MW Bro Cordina proceeded to install the new Officers. A celebration Banquet followed.
It was a memorable few days. The Maltese Brethren and their ladies could not have made us more welcome. We wish every success to the Sovereign Grand Lodge of Malta under the guidance of MW Bro. Cordina who hopes to visit us in June 2005.
Last week I was in Edinburgh accompanied by the Grand Secretary for the Installation of MW Bro. The Rev. Canon Joseph Morrow as Grand Master Mason of the Grand Lodge of Scotland to succeed MW Bro Sir Archibald Orr-Ewing who visited Dublin many times during his term of Office. MW Bro Morrow invited me as Guest of Honour so I was privileged to propose the toast to the Grand Lodge of Scotland at the Celebration Banquet. RW Bro Walker and I renewed many old friendships and we look forward to welcoming MW Bro. Morrow to Grand Lodge in June 2005.
We will continue to avail of suitable opportunities to raise the Public profile of Freemasonry as a long-term objective. Significant progress has already been made.
At previous Grand Lodge Communications, I have mentioned Events GLI Limited, an event promotion company wholly owned by Grand Lodge, Its function is two fold:
Brethren, we rightly consider ourselves to be members of a prestigious order, with a long and dignified history. It is right and proper therefore that anything intended to enhance our position in Society should be equally prestigious.
I am pleased to tell you that we are in the process this week of exchanging contracts, which will formalise nearly two years of negotiation. The first concert will take place at the Point Theatre on Wednesday March 9th 2005.
Our Artiste is constantly in demand all over the world and recently gave sell-out concerts before audiences of 850,000 in New York and 700,000 in Tokyo. His repertoire extends from opera, where he reigns supreme and is in demand in every opera house in the world, to Musicals and dual albums with singers such as John Denver.
It will be his first appearance in Ireland for 14 years. By now you will realise that there are very few people that I can be talking about. Brethren, I am happy to announce that on March 9th at the Point Theatre, Dublin; Events GLI will present “Placido Domingo – in Concert” with Maestro Domingo accompanied by the full RTE National Concert Orchestra, in what promises to be the musical and social event of the year.
Invitations will be sent to the President and the Taoiseach.
I feel that Events GLI will have more than fulfilled their brief. We can hardly ask for a more prestigious occasion which should raise a sum measured in hundreds of thousands which will be divided equally between ten charities throughout Ireland.
I hope everyone will give it their most sincere support by attendance and/or by telling their friends about it. It will be an event of which we, as Freemasons in the Community, call all be very proud indeed.
We are entering a phase of change which is both exciting and challenging. Every member of our great Order has a part to play. I place great value on teamwork.
With enthusiasm, commitment and support, determined to ensure the continued success of Irish Freemasonry and working together, we can achieve this target.
I wish to thank all Brethren who serve us so well on all Committees and all Officers in Grand Lodge for their support which is never less than total, it is a great pleasure to work with you.
As the year draws to a close and we begin to contemplate what next year will bring, Pam & I send to all Brethren and their families, both in Ireland and Overseas, warm Seasonal Greetings and Best Wishes for your health, happiness and prosperity in 2005.
Eric N. Waller, Grand Master 2nd December 2004