Belfast Telegraph

First unionist Senator turned down Orange Order as teen

By Staff Reporter

The first unionist elected to the Irish Seanad has revealed how he declined an invitation to join the Orange Order when he was a teenager.

In an interview with the Dublin-based Sunday Business Post newspaper, former Ulster Farmers' Union president Ian Marshall (50) said his father had told him that he didn't need to hang his colours from a mast in order to prove he was a good unionist.

Senator Marshall also opened up about his background in Ulster farm life. He was 27 when he was knocked off his motorbike after a car hit him as it emerged from a side road.

"I was propelled almost 60 metres and hit a bank. I was unconscious and had swallowed my tongue," Mr Marshall said.

By chance a passing nurse, Sarah Bradley, stopped her car, removed his helmet and freed his tongue so he could breathe. "That lady saved my life," he told the newspaper.

Mr Marshall hails from a dairy farming family in Markethill, where he was born in 1968, just as the Troubles were beginning in earnest.

Speaking of the atmosphere in the mid-Armagh village in his youth, he said: "When I was growing up, it wasn't a particularly nice place to be."

He also spoke of what he called his "six years of hell" battling the Department of Agriculture after silage effluent from his farm polluted a waterway leading to a local river.

He is still engaged in legal action over the long-running issue.

It was through his agri-food networks and links to Irish EU Commissioner Phil Hogan that Mr Marshall was identified as a potential recruit to the Dublin Senate.

Mr Marshall was nominated to the Senate by Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar, but also won support from Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail.

Mr Marshall was the first Ulster Farmers' Union president to speak at a Sinn Fein ard fheis, and his familiarity with the party was helpful when it came to winning republican support for his election to the Senate.

On Brexit, the major issue of the day for the agricultural community, he is opposed to the UK leaving the EU, and favours a second referendum on the issue.

"If they don't do that, I will feel - as one of the 48% of people in the UK who didn't want to leave - that I've been taken out of Europe against my will," he told the paper.

Belfast Telegraph

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