Varadkar hails 'ongoing dialogue' with Orange Order
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that the colours on the Irish flag are "white, orange and green in equal measure" after a meeting with the Orange Order.
The Irish leader and Minister for European Affairs Helen McEntee met with the Grand Secretary of the Orange Order, Reverend Mervyn Gibson and a delegation of Orange Order members from south of the border in Government Buildings in Dublin on Monday.
During the meeting, they discussed issues affecting Orange Order members in Ireland, including Protestant schools and education in general, infrastructure and the cultural needs of Protestant communities in border counties.
The government reports they also discussed support for tourism projects including further development of the Battle of the Boyne site, the possibility of a Williamite Trail from Antrim to Aughrim, and Second World War commemorations.
Speaking after the meeting the Taoiseach said: "The colours on our flag are white, orange and green in equal measure.
"Sometimes I feel that we haven't fully lived up to that.
"The Good Friday Agreement acknowledges that people in Northern Ireland have the right to be British, Irish or both, and accepted as such.
"We should acknowledge that there are many people in our State that feel themselves to be both British and Irish.
"It's something that we should accept too.
"On many occasions, I have said that our job should be to build bridges, not borders.
"I strongly believe that States can best be judged on how they treat minorities.
"This visit today is another step in an ongoing engagement between the Government and the Order.
"We must always keep channels of communication open as a basis for respectful discussion on matters of common interest.
"I look forward to ongoing dialogue between the Government and the Orange Order."
Mr Varadkar recently became the first serving Irish head of government to visit the Orange Heritage Museum in Belfast in June and went on to provide funding for the rebuilding of a fire damaged Orange Hall in Co Donegal after an arson attack this year.
In recent months he has been keen to reiterate his understanding and sympathy for Northern Ireland unionists, using his speeches to reiterate that the Republic's government would respect the Good Friday Agreement.
Monday's meeting also touched on Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration agreed at the European Council meeting in Brussels last weekend.
The meeting comes as the political positions of the DUP and Mr Varadkar's office have been at odds in recent weeks as the Irish government backed Theresa May's draft agreement, which the DUP has flatly rejected.
Arlene Foster strongly reiterated DUP rejection of the EU-UK Brexit withdrawal agreement at her party conference over the weekend.
"The choice is not between this deal and no deal despite what the government spin machine may say," she said.
"We cannot wish away the fact that the draft withdrawal agreement contains arrangements that we believe are not in Northern Ireland's long term economic or strategic interests."
After the meeting Mr Gibson said: "This was a useful exercise, following on from the Taoiseach's visit to the Museum of Orange Heritage earlier this year.
"Then, Grand Master Edward Stevenson highlighted our intention to continue meaningful engagement with the Irish Government on matters of mutual interest - today's meeting was another positive step in this regard.
"Members of the institution from the border counties of the Republic of Ireland raised a number of issues with Mr Varadkar, including education, culture and tourism.
"On behalf of the institution, I would like to thank the Taoiseach for hosting this afternoon's meeting.
"We look forward to building on such conversations with the Irish Government, allowing for ongoing representation on matters relating to our members and the Orange fraternity in the Republic of Ireland."