Northern Ireland

Orange Order: Drew Nelson dies aged 60

Drew Nelson Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Drew Nelson was first elected to office within the Orange Order in 2004

Drew Nelson, the grand secretary of the Orange Order, has died at the age of 60.

The Order said Mr Nelson had been been ill for a short period of time.

Mr Nelson, from Dromore, County Down, was first elected to office within the Order in 2004.

Edward Stevenson, the Order's grand master in Ireland, said the institution had "lost not only its heartbeat but perhaps its greatest ever advocate".

"Drew was a towering figure within the Orange fraternity, whose commitment and devotion to the principles of Orangeism are simply unrivalled.

"No other individual, over the course of the past decade, has done more to champion the cause of the institution and its membership.

"His contribution to promoting a tradition he was immensely proud to represent was truly outstanding."

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Orange Order's Drew Nelson pictured with order's Belfast County Grand Master George Chittock.

Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy said Mr Nelson led change in the Order that "saw its image and reputation improve significantly across the world".

"I knew Drew primarily through my membership of the Orange Institution, and his commitment to the Orange Order and his desire to improve life in Northern Ireland was obvious."

DUP MLA Peter Weir, who was a close friend of Mr Nelson, said he was "really sad to learn of the death" of his good friend. He described his death as a "massive loss to the Orange Order, but especially to all of us who are his friends and family".

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy said Mr Nelson led change in the Order that "saw its image and reputation improve significantly across the world".

TUV leader Jim Allister also said he was "deeply saddened" to learn of his passing.

"Drew has fought a valiant battle with cancer for a number of months, a trial he faced with tremendous courage," he added.

SDLP West Belfast MLA Alex Attwood also expressed his condolences to the family of Drew Nelson.

"Over the years since Drew and I were students of Queen's University, our paths sometimes crossed.

"We had our differences of opinion on a number of matters but his style and mind were never closed. He was always plain speaking, thoughtful and loyal, " he said.

Former Alliance leader David Ford also added his condolences.

"Drew played a key role in the Orange Order in recent years, particularly in seeking to move the organisation forward and recognising the new reality of Northern Ireland society," said Mr Ford.

"I always had positive engagements with him in his role, both from an Alliance perspective and while justice minister," he added.

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