Orange Order warned over politics
The Orange Order should stay out of unionist party politics, Tom Elliott has said.
The Ulster Unionist, who is also a senior Orangeman, said such political interventions by the Order risked creating tensions.
This comes after the Orange Order was engaged in secret talks with the UUP and DUP last year believed to be aimed at securing unionist co-operation to avoid Sinn Fein becoming the largest party at Stormont.
Senior figures in the Order have since publicly called for unionist parties to unite against their political opponents.
But Mr Elliott said: "Being the organisation that they are, they have a political responsibility, that is to express their views as they so wish.
"I think the general consensus within the Order is that they should stay out of party politics, because it clearly confuses matters within the Order, almost provides an aggression within the institution that's not required.
"And that's why the vast majority of people prefer to remain and keep it outside the party political issue. And by and large they do that."
He played down the significance of his party talks with the Order and the DUP which emerged at the start of the year.
They were seen as an attempt to create a united unionist response to Sinn Fein to prevent republicans taking the First Minister's job at Stormont.
But Mr Elliott signalled his belief that Orange leaders should avoid public statements on party politics.