Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein presidential runner Liadh Ni Riada in offer to Orange Order

Olive branch: Liadh Ni Riada
Olive branch: Liadh Ni Riada
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

Sinn Fein's candidate for the Irish presidency has said if she is elected she will invite members of the Orange Order to Aras an Uachtarain - and if they can't go to her, she wants to go to them.

However, earlier this year the Orange Order forthrightly rejected an offer from Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald to attend its Twelfth of July celebrations, saying it was against the institution's policy to meet the republican party.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Liadh Ni Riada, who is an MEP, said she wanted to build bridges with the wider unionist community.

She said: "I would invite (the Orange Order) to the Aras.

"If they weren't in a position to come I wouldn't have an issue, under guidance from the government, in visiting the Orange lodges and visiting (DUP leader) Arlene Foster in her home place to talk to unionists.

"I think it's about not being afraid to have those difficult conversations.

"It's about ensuring identities are respected, about reaching out to unionists and making sure they feel safe in the knowledge that they're part of Ireland, they're part of the culture."

Around 300 members of the Orange Order were killed during the Troubles. Their deaths have been at the heart of Grand Lodge's refusal to meet anyone from Sinn Fein.

After Ms McDonald's request for an invite to last summer's Twelfth, the Orange Order said: "The Orange Institution will not be issuing a specific invitation to the Sinn Fein president.

"Such an invitation would insult the memory of our murdered members and bring further hurt and distress to many families.

"Grand Lodge has a longstanding policy of not meeting with Sinn Fein."

Ms Ni Riada pointed to a previous meeting she had with the DUP's leader over Brexit's consequences for Northern Ireland.

She said: "I met Arlene Foster in Killarney not so long ago, wearing my MEP hat, and I asked her, once Brexit is pulled in March, how she would ensure the Common Agriculture Policy would be maintained and if Westminster was going to fork out the money when there's a big hole left after the EuropeanUnion budget.

"Given my experience as an MEP, I know what's coming down the tracks because I sit on the budgets committee.

"I'm on many Brexit steering groups and I think that level of insight would be useful."

Echoing her party leader from last month, Ms Ni Riada also voiced her support for recently appointed Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, who is a former deputy chief of the PSNI.

The Orange Order did not respond to a request for comment.

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