Donegal Orangemen urged to respect 1916 centenary
President Higgins opts to miss Twelfth march
Orange Order members were urged yesterday to respect the right of the Republic to celebrate 1916 next year.
The call came at the only Orange Order parade held annually in the Republic.
President Michael D Higgins had been invited to attend yesterday's march in Rossnowlagh, Co Donegal in the wake of the success of the 2011 visit of Queen Elizabeth.
But on June 18, he declined the invitation issued by organisers to the Aras more than a year ago. Instead, the President opened a concert area at an arts centre in Naul in north Dublin to which he had been invited in spring.
His Presidential office sent a brief note to the Orange Order just three weeks ago turning down the public invitation to Rossnowlagh.
Harold Henning, Orange Order Deputy Grand Master in Ireland, said he couldn't comment on the suggestion that the President snubbed the parade.
Mr Henning, guest speaker at the rally, added: "I don't know what the President's diary was, but the invitation is still there for him to attend a future event."
He said former president Mary McAleese and her husband Martin were "very welcome" guests at the recent opening of the new Orange Order museum in Belfast. "We were glad they were able to come."
Mr Henning, in his rally speech, noted that the Republic of Ireland will be celebrating 1916 next year. He said it was "of minimal relevance" to Orange members but they respected the right of others in Ireland to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising. "We can't rewrite history. History is there and it has to be remembered."
"Likewise, we would expect others to acknowledge the importance of the centenary of the Battle of the Somme next year to the Unionist community on this island," he added.
President Higgins' officials wouldn't discuss reasons for his choice of event yesterday.
More than 7,000 Orange members and associates went ahead with the 2km parade to the sand dunes at Rossnowlagh. The parade has taken place every year since 1978 on the Saturday before July 12.