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Saturday 16 December 2017

State still a 'cold house for Unionists'

JOHN DRENNAN

The Grand Secretary of the Orange Order, Drew Nelson, will articulate, in next week's historic address to the Seanad, the ongoing concerns among the Protestant community that the Republic continues to be a cold house for Northern Unionists.

In an exclusive interview Mr Nelson told the Sunday Independent that in spite of a welcoming intensification of engagement, the Protestant community continue to be deeply concerned about issues such as the impact of education cuts on private Protestant schools.

The ongoing campaign against Orange halls, with 133 incidents of arson and other attacks across both sides of the Border since 2000, has also led to an ongoing "sense of insecurity".

Eoghan Harris Page 23

However, Mr Nelson will use the occasion of the address to express his intent to lead, welcome and recognise a growing process of rapprochement between the Order and southern institutions.

Speaking on the historic decision, Mr Nelson noted that while "the Orange Order wanted to remember 1690, we don't want to live in 1690".

He will also tell the Seanad that he has not come down to deliver a "history lesson, a list of platitudes or a list of grievances" but to instead "look forward . . . to build a normality of relationships".

Mr Nelson said his Seanad speech was part of a process of integration for an organisation that "has over 50 lodges within 10 counties in the State". He said the Queen's visit had played a critical role in the proposed visit as it was "a game-changer".

But in language echoing David Trimble's famous 'cold house for Catholics' line Mr Nelson warned that with the sole exception of Raphoe, in Co Donegal, the "normalisation of relations has not yet developed sufficiently for us to parade in towns.''

Mr Nelson, however, hoped "attendance at the Seanad'' might facilitate "full acceptance" where they might yet "parade in Ballieboro or Ballyjamesduff".

Sunday Independent

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