Orange Order

In Northern Ireland, solely Protestant organization founded in County Armagh in 1795 in opposition to the Defenders, a Catholic secret society. It was a revival of the Orange Institution founded in 1688 to support William (III) of Orange, whose victory over the Catholic James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 has been commemorated annually by Protestants in parades since 1796. The new order was organized into Orange Societies in a similar way to freemasonry, with a system of lodges. It has institutional ties with the Ulster Unionist Party.

Early history
The Orange Order was established following the victory of the Protestant Peep o'Day Boys over the Defenders in the sectarian Battle of the Diamond (1795) near Loughgall, County Armagh. During the late 1790s the order spread to many Irish counties and centralized its leadership in Dublin in 1798. Initially a proletarian organization, this development reflected growing support among the gentry officials who saw its wider military and political potential in opposing the radical reformist United Irishmen. Orangemen served as armed auxiliaries in the suppression of the Rebellion of 1798, and lodges spread into the armed forces.

Orangemen resisted Catholic emancipation in the early 19th century. This opposition was sometimes violent and the government banned the Orange Order in 1825, along with the Catholic Association. Gentry support had declined and the Grand Lodge voluntarily dissolved in 1836. Orangeism survived at a popular level and was reactivated as a political force in the 1880s by landlords opposed to home rule. This revival continued as the Orange Order became an integral part of unionist resistance to home rule. The link continued with the formation of Northern Ireland in 1921 and the Orange Order still retains institutional ties with the Ulster Unionists. Its political prominence is cyclical. In the late 1990s nationalist opposition to some of its traditional marches led to parades, like the Drumcree march at Portadown, County Armagh in 1997 and 1998, assuming immense significance during attempts to create new political structures in Northern Ireland. Thanks to proddygirl for letting me use this information.