Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Orange Order leader to address Republic of Ireland's Senate

Drew Nelson is to become the first member of the Orange Order to address the Seanad

The Grand Secretary of the Orange Order, Drew Nelson, is set to outline his concerns among the Protestant community that the Republic continues to be a cold house for northern unionists.

Mr Nelson, who is due to make an historic address to the Seanad (the Senate) tomorrow, said that in spite of a welcoming intensification of engagement, the Protestant community in the south continues 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”.

However, Mr Nelson will use his 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 tell the Seanad 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 to the south 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 the “normalisation of relations has not yet developed sufficiently for us to parade” in most towns in the Republic.

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