Inside the world of the Irish Freemasons

Most Worshipful Grand Master Douglas Grey spoke about what happens behind closed doors

Inside the world of the Irish Freemasons

Image: Arno Burgi/DPA/PA Images

For hundreds of years, the Freemasons have been subject to many conspiracy theories.

A network of fraternities which trace their origins to the local fraternities of stonemasons, Modern Freemasonry consists of two main recognition groups.

Regular Freemasonry insists that a volume of scripture is open in a working lodge, that every member profess belief in a supreme being, that no women are admitted, and that the discussion of religion and politics is banned.

Continental Freemasonry is now the general term for the "liberal" jurisdictions who have removed some, or all, of these restrictions.

There are 22,000 Masons in Ireland, and in June, many more will descend on Ireland.

The Most Worshipful Grand Master Douglas Grey spoke to Moncrieff in an effort to shed some light on the organisation.

"Masonry is organised in a series of lodges, and there's over 500 of them in Ireland," he said. "Everybody within these lodges is equal. There has to be a chairman of the lodge each year, and he is known as the Worshipful Master. Then, they are organised into provincial areas, and we have a Provincial Grand Master.

"Then it gets to the next level - the Grand Lodge of Ireland - where the boss is called the Grand Master."

Mr Grey says the origins of the group are locked in "the mystics of time", but said the tools of the Freemasons, who were labourers by trade, are allegorical symbols of life.

"When you're born, you're a rough stone from the quarry, and hopefully with a chisel and the mall, you're chiseled into a perfect ashlar to take place in the building of that house in the heavens not made with hands."

Ultimately, it's a men's clubs, with the aim of building better lives for its members.

"We do a lot of charity work - that's the main strain of our order," he says.

What makes you a Freemason?

Mr Grey says there are a number of organisations styling themselves on the Freemasons - however, their purpose is often politically motivated.

In order to be a Freemason, you are required to believe in some form of a higher being.

"If you cannot affirm a belief in a supreme being, you cannot become a Freemason," he says.

Mr Grey reiterates that the Freemasons are not against any religion. 

"At the end of the day, I think it's a question of control over the minds of men," he comments on accusations that the order is anti-Catholicism. "If they think that we're not telling people what we do, it's assumed that we're up to no good. 

"All the churches at some stage have said, 'if you join the Freemasons, we'll throw you out'. But things have changed."

When you join, the Freemasons encourage its members to support whatever religion they subscribe to. Similar encouragements are made towards members' individual political beliefs.

However, discussion on either topic at meetings is strictly prohibited.

Why isn't it more open?

Mr Grey sees the Freemasons as being a part of society, rather than apart from society.

He puts their 'secretive' nature down to their extensive philanthropic work - he says a third of their charity spend is on non-Masonic ventures

"If a member dies, we will look after his widow and his children," he explains. "We distribute teddies in the emergency departments of hospitals."

Masonic charity involves educating members' children - who may be in financial distress or who may be bereaved - right up to university - Grey estimates the Freemasons in Ireland are educating up to 400 children currently.

There is a cost involved in joining the club, as well as regular collections at meetings for charitable organisations.