Varadkar makes symbolic visit to Protestant loyal order’s HQ
The Apprentice Boys have two main parades each year, marking the 1689 siege of Londonderry when the city resisted an attack by King James.
The Taoiseach has made a symbolic visit to the headquarters of one of Northern Ireland’s Protestant loyal orders.
Leo Varadkar was welcomed to the Apprentice Boys of Derry museum by the general secretary of the organisation, William Moore.
Mr Moore made it clear to the Taoiseach that he would be welcome to return to Londonderry to watch one of the organisation’s parades as he presented him with a book about the siege of Derry and a tie.
The Apprentice Boys have two main parades each year, marking the 1689 siege of Londonderry when the city resisted an attack by the Catholic King James.
“If ever you return to Londonderry and especially if you return to watch our Relief Of Londonderry parade in August or the Shutting Of The Gates parade in December, perhaps you would care to wear our tie,” he said
Mr Varadkar impressed his hosts by translating the Latin of its motto.
“Life, truth and victory,” Mr Varadkar said with a smile, adding he had never studied the historic language.
Mr Moore quipped back: “That’s very good, I really don’t have to teach you too much”.
Mr Varadkar also received a tour of the museum and met the governor of the Apprentice Boys, Graeme Stenhouse, and DUP politician Lord Hay, a former speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The outreach initiative comes months after Mr Varadkar visited the HQ of the Orange Order in Belfast. He is the first Taoiseach to have done so.
Mr Varadkar then crossed the city to visit the Rath Mor Centre in the nationalist Creggan area where he met a number of local groups.
He was greeted at the entrance to the centre by a number of dissident republican protesters holding banners calling for the abolition of the Special Criminal Court in Dublin.
However he received a warmer welcome inside the centre where a choir sang as he chatted to a number of local people before going in to meetings with community groups.
Mr Varadkar was given a tour of the 60 businesses and projects that are based in the centre which is the north west’s largest enterprise hub.
He also learned about the history of Creggan and the Rath Mor site which hosted a Jacobite camp during the siege of Derry.
Creggan Enterprises development executive Conor McFeely welcomed the Taoiseach’s visit as a “positive reinforcement” of the promise by the Irish Government that it will uphold the rights of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland.
“As is evident from his visit today to the siege museum, Taoiseach Varadkar is engaged in building bridges – and not digging trenches,” he said.
Mr Varadkar said his visits had been a “pleasure”.
“It’s a pleasure as always to visit the maiden city and have a chance to meet people here and talk to people,” he said.
“I visited the Apprentice Boys museum, I hadn’t been there before, I have been around the walls but never to the museum, and I talked about ways we can promote it and work together to make sure more people have the opportunity to visit the museum and better understand the history of the city.
“Also at the Rath Mor centre, we have been talking about how we can work on more opportunity, more understanding, more development in this part of the city.”