Wednesday 24 January 2018

Orangemen make plea in Seanad for capital parade

Lyndsey Telford

The head of the Orange Order yesterday said his organisation wanted permission to march in Dublin.

Orange Order grand secretary Drew Nelson made his plea in a historic speech to the Seanad yesterday as he became the first member of the organisation to address the Oireachtas.

He told senators that the order wanted to improve north-south relations by holding parades in the Republic.

"Our members in the Republic would welcome the opportunity to hold a parade in their capital city," he said.

About 20 Orange Order parades take place in the Republic every year but none in a major city.

The only attempt to hold a major demonstration in Dublin -- the Love Ulster march in 2006 -- was abandoned after hundreds of protesters opposed to the Orange march rioted on the streets of Dublin.

Mr Nelson said the order understands the challenges such a parade would pose.

"This institution and the bands which we support are the guardians of part of the intangible cultural heritage of not only Northern Ireland but also the Republic of Ireland," he said.

Mr Nelson also suggested the State had failed to look after Protestant communities in the border counties compared to the way the British Government looked after Catholics in Northern Ireland.

Referring to the falling Protestant populations in Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan, Mr Nelson said the dwindling numbers compared to growing Catholic communities north of the border.

"This, of, course begs the question as to which state looked after its minority better," he said.

Senator Martin McAleese, husband of former president Mary McAleese, told Mr Nelson of his fear as a Catholic child growing up in loyalist east Belfast and watching Orange Order parades.

He said he hated the marching season and felt threatened as part of the minority community, but added that recent cross-community co-operation between himself and Mr Nelson had helped him develop an appreciation for the order's heritage.

Meanwhile, Seanad chairman Paddy Burke said Mr Nelson's presence in the chamber was an example of progress.

Mr Nelson also thanked Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, who invited him to the Irish parliament to make his historic address.

Maurice hayes

Irish Independent

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