Ireland’s new Arts Minister has denied links to the Orange Order – as she prepares to play a major role in the commemorations of the 1916 Rising.

Heather Humphreys, a protestant from Monaghan, was appointed Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht by Irish PM Enda Kenny.

Her department will play a key role in the government’s plans to remember the 1916 Rising.

She has now moved to distance herself from rumours that she supports the Orange Order.

A spokesman for the Minister told the Belfast based Irish News newspaper that Humphreys has no links with the loyalist grouping.

Responding to claims that she had regularly attended Orange Order parades near the border, he insisted: “The Minister has no association with the Orange Order.”

He added: “The Minister has in the past attended and will continue to attend, cultural events associated with a diverse range of communities including the Protestant community.”

Minister Humphreys has supported annual Protestant picnics – a celebration of Protestant culture – in her constituency.

These events are now open to the general public and are no longer confined to those of the Protestant faith.

She also told the Irish News that she is ‘looking forward’ to working on the 1916 commemorations.

Minister Humphreys added: “I intend to work as widely as possible with the various groups involved so that consensus can be achieved on a respectful, appropriate and inclusive way to commemorate this hugely significant event in our history.”

One of Humphreys’ former colleagues on Monaghan council told the Irish News of his surprise at the allegations that she was linked to the Orange Order.

The unnamed councillor said she was ‘more likely to be seen at a GAA game.’