Northern Ireland

Drew Nelson says Orange Order would like Dublin parade

Grand Lodge of Ireland Grand Secretary Drew Nelson
Image caption Grand Lodge of Ireland Grand Secretary Drew Nelson addressed the Irish Senate

A senior member of the Orange Order has told the Irish senate that members of the order from the Republic would like to have a parade in Dublin.

However, Drew Nelson, grand secretary of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, said the order "completely understands the challenges" such a parade would pose.

Mr Nelson's address to the Seanad is unprecedented. He has been accompanied by other leading members of the order.

The delegation will meet with Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny.

Mr Nelson said the order had two main motivations for accepting the invitation to the Seanad in Dublin.

He said they saw it as "formal recognition of our place in Irish society" and a chance to contribute to "the normalisation of relationships within these islands".

Mr Nelson said over the years members of the Protestant community in the border areas of the Republic had raised fears about their survival as a viable self-sustaining community.

"Many have also spoken frankly of their fear and I am not just talking here about the fear of violence," he said.

"I am specifically referring to their fear of incurring the displeasure of the state in any way."

He said although the situation had improved recently "uncertainty still exists and has been reinforced over the past few years because of the education cuts to Protestant schools, which are having a severe effect amongst the scattered border Protestant community".

Mr Nelson said while there were 20 Orange parades in the Republic every year, these had been pushed to the margins of society.

In 2000, a parade planned for Dublin was cancelled after organisers claimed they had been intimidated.

"There has not been an Orange Order parade in a major town in the Republic since before the troubles," Mr Nelson said.

"Our members in the Republic would welcome the opportunity to hold a parade in their capital city.

"As an institution we completely understand however the challenges which such a parade would pose."

Mr Nelson said the Orange Order wanted accommodation and tolerance not segregation.

"Resistance to parades continues to have a corrosive effect on community relations in Northern Ireland and, I believe, the potential to again explode onto the headlines," he said.

'Historic visit'

Earlier, Senate chairman Paddy Burke said the visit would build understanding about the order.

Members of the Irish Senate unanimously agreed last week to a recommendation by its Committee on Procedure and Privileges to Mr Nelson's address.

Senator Burke said he was looking forward to welcoming Drew Nelson to Leinster House.

"This historic visit and address by the secretary of the Grand Orange Order is most welcome at this time," he said.

"I strongly believe that it is another step on the path to sustained peace and reconciliation on our island.

"It also presents an opportunity for our people to learn and build understanding about the Orange Order.

In a reference last week to Tuesday's meeting, Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: "I would encourage the loyal orders to bear this in mind when they file for parades through areas they know they are not welcome.

"I welcome the upcoming visit of the Orange Order to the Oireacthas but they need to end their position of refusing dialogue with Sinn Féin or nationalist residents."

Mr McGuinness was addressing Sinn Fein party members at Westminster following his unprecedented meeting with the Queen when they shook hands.

More on this story