Irish president Michael D Higgins invited to Donegal Orange Order parade
Irish president Michael D Higgins has been urged to attend next year's major Orange Order parade at Rossnowlagh in Donegal.
The official invitation came from the institution's Grand Master Edward Stevenson following the president's recent historic visit to London and the Queen's ground-breaking trip to Dublin.
In a speech at the Rossnowlagh event on Saturday, Mr Stevenson referred to the landmark address by Grand Secretary Drew Nelson to the Irish Senate in Dublin two years ago.
"(He) spoke of the challenges facing all of us as we move forward together, and despite the horror of the sectarian campaign carried out in the name of Irish republicanism, underlined the Orange institution's genuine desire to see a normalisation of relationships on these islands," he said.
"No more so was this illustrated by the momentous state visit of Her Majesty the Queen here to the Republic in 2011.
"During her trip, the Queen visited sites of significance to Irish nationalism, including the Garden of Remembrance and Croke Park in Dublin. Such gestures of reconciliation were hugely symbolic and carried out by Her Majesty with great decorum and respect.
"It is against this backdrop, and from this platform today, that I publically invite the President of the Republic of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, to join us and witness for himself next year the colour and spectacle of the only Twelfth demonstration in this jurisdiction.
"You will be made most welcome here in Rossnowlagh, President Higgins.
"And I trust you will accept the genuine invitation in the spirit of goodwill and neighbourliness in which it is intended."
Mr Stevenson said in his own inaugural speech, President Higgins spoke of a 'common, shared future built on the spirit of co-operation', about 'equality' and 'respect for all'.
"What better way to make such words a reality by reaching out in a hand of friendship to the minority Protestant community in the Republic; the symbolism of which would have positive ramifications beyond the boundaries of County Donegal," he said.
More than 7,000 Orange Order members and supporters marched to the area's famous surfing beach with lodges from Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan, Dublin and Co Londonderry taking part.