Orangeman makes parade challenge
Published 04/07/2012 | 21:22
A senior member of the Orange Order has challenged the Government to permit a loyalist parade through Dublin city centre.
Grand secretary Drew Nelson, who made history when he became the first Orangeman to address the Republic's parliament, said the State should honour its declaration of independence and treat all citizens equally.
He pointed out that the Republic is home to several hundred members of the lodge. He said: "If you really value those people as members of your society, if you want to treat all the children equally then we would like to see this happening. This is a challenge to Irish society. Are we welcome to do that or are we not?"
Mr Nelson addressed senators in the upper house but refused to speak directly to any Sinn Fein representatives. He said later that he would not forget the fact that over 300 Orangemen were murdered during the Northern Ireland Troubles.
The grand secretary, a key player in the order's hierarchy, refused to follow the Queen's example of last week when she shook hands with Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness. Mr Nelson responded to remarks from senators, including Sinn Fein's David Cullinane, through the chairman. As policy, the Orange Order does not speak directly to Sinn Fein.
"Sinn Fein was making a political statement with the handshake and as a servant of the people, the Queen had no choice. We have a choice," he said.
About 20 Orange Order parades take place in the Republic every year but none in a major city. The only attempt to hold a major demonstration in Dublin - the Love Ulster march in 2006 - was abandoned after hundreds of protesters opposed to the Orange march rioted on the streets of Dublin.
Mr Nelson, who also called for Ireland to rejoin the Commonwealth, suggested the State had failed to look after Protestant communities in the border counties compared to the way the British government looked after Catholics in Northern Ireland.
Mr Nelson went on to appeal to the Oireachtas to continue to support Protestant schools in Ireland. He said communities, particularly those in the border counties, live in fear for their continued survival in the face of cuts to Church of Ireland and other Protestant schools, which do not fall under state control.
"The Protestant community actually fears for its continued survival as a viable, self-sustaining community," said Mr Nelson. "I appeal to you today to take whatever steps are within your power to address that issue and reassure our members living in the border counties."