New Orange Order Grand Master Edward Stevenson has urged the DUP, Ulster Unionists and TUV to “work together” to maximise the unionist vote in next month’s elections.
He stopped short of backing any pact between the unionist parties to prevent Martin McGuinness becoming First Minister should Sinn Fein emerge as the largest party.
“I am not really a political animal and do not want to become involved in party politics,” he said.
Mr Stevenson insisted he will meet no political parties until after the May 5 Assembly and local government polls, but favours a single unionist party, while describing it as a “pie in the sky ideal”.
More than 40 MLAs are members of the Orange Order, a reflection of the political influence the institution can carry, but Mr Stevenson insisted he wanted to emphasise the Christian bedrock of the organisation.
“In an ideal world we could maybe have one unionist party, but I would like to see unionists as they are now working more closely together,” he said.
A senior Presbyterian, Mr Stevenson has been critical of Presbyterian Moderator Norman Hamilton meeting the families of the Bloody Sunday victims and Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.
“It sent out a very wrong message to a lot of hurting folk in our Church,” the Grand Master said.