A senior member of the Orange Order has appealed to the Irish government to allow members to take part in a parade in Dublin.
Drew Nelson, grand secretary of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, made history on Tuesday when he became the first member of the organization to address the Irish senate
During his address he said members in the Republic would like to march in the capital city.
“There was one planned in Dublin a few years ago but it was unable to proceed,” Nelson said. “Our members in the Republic would welcome the opportunity to hold a parade in their capital city.”
"There has not been an Orange Order parade in a major town in the Republic since before the troubles," Nelson said.
According to the BBC, around 20 Orange Order parades take place in the south annually, but none in a major city. In 2006 the Love Ulster March was abandoned in Dublin after hundreds of protestors took to the streets.
Nelson acknowledged the challenges such a parade would pose. “This institution and the bands which we support are the guardians of part of the intangible cultural heritage of not only Northern Ireland but also the Republic of Ireland,” he said. “I believe that Ireland would be a poorer place if that cultural heritage disappeared.”
Nelson, alongside another leading member of the order, also met with Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny.
The Grand secretary said that accepting the invitation to address the Irish government was a"formal recognition of our place in Irish society" and a chance to contribute to "the normalisation of relationships within these islands".
He said that several members of the protestant community living in the border areas of the Republic were concerned about the order’s survival.
"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."
While the situation has improved in recent times Nelson said: "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".
Nelson condemned the attacks on the on Orange Order halls by dissidents, which he described as “demonisation” of the organisation by some members of the republican movement.
He called for accommodation and tolerance rather than segregation.
“Together let us resolve that no longer will the burden of history stand in the way of normalisation of relationships,” Nelson added.
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