As we get closer to July 12th, the most sacred day for the Protestant tradition in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness,has stated in the U.S. that the Orange Order is part of Irish peoples’ “shared history ... they are part of our diverse nation and history. “

Some of the worst flashpoints of The Troubles have come around Orange marches on the 12th, especially at Drumcree in County Armagh where a tense stand off between nationalists who do not want the Orange Order to march through their neighborhood and the leadership of the order has still not been resolved.

McGuinness was speaking to the national convention of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians the fraternal Catholic organization in the U.S.

Amongst the audience at the AOH Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio were Seamus Boyle President of the AOH, Mary Ryan President of the LAOH and the Irish Ambassador to the United States Michael Collins.

“I am mindful that we are in the lead up to the 12th July at home. A tense time for many communities! A time when another fraternal organization celebrates its heritage! I am of course referring to the Orange Order.

“I think that the Orange Order has much to learn from the open, generous and pragmatic approach to marching and working with host communities demonstrated by the AOH at home.

“We recognize that the Orange Order is part of our shared heritage. They are part of our diverse nation and history. There is no greater symbol of this than our national flag. A symbol of peace and equality between green and orange!

“All communities want to move forward together with equality and respect. I look forward to the day when the leaders of the Orange Order are willing to engage positively with the political and civic representatives of the Nationalist people of the North in the process of creating a better future for all our people."

McGuinness also condemned attacks on Orange Halls and nationalist buildings as hate crimes.

“Recent attacks on Orange Halls, places of worship, GAA, Sinn Féin Offices and other premises are to be unreservedly condemned for the hate crimes they are and I know you will all wholeheartedly agree with me that sectarianism like racism has no place in the New Ireland which is under way," he said.

“In republican parlance we refer to the cause of reunification as 'the struggle'. We use the term because it will only be achieved by hard work, commitment and sacrifice. I am confident that it will be achieved.

“I am confident it will be achieved when I look back at how far we have come working together. And I am confident because it is the way to secure prosperity, inclusion and peace for all in our diverse community across Ireland,” McGuinness said.

McGuinness is currently the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. He was formerly involved in, and suspected of having an influential position in, the IRA. The recent Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday cleared McGuinness of having any paramilitary involvement in the massacre, but did say that he was probably armed at the time.