Taoiseach meets with Grand Secretary of Orange Order in Government Buildings
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for European Affairs Helen McEntee met today with the Grand Secretary of the Orange Order, Rev. Mervyn Gibson and a delegation of Orange Order members from south of the border in Government Buildings in Dublin.
They discussed issues affecting Orange Order members in Ireland, including Protestant schools and education in general, infrastructure and the cultural needs of Protestant communities in border counties. They also discussed support for tourism projects including further development of the Battle of the Boyne site, the possibility of a ‘Williamite Trail’ from Antrim to Aughrim, and Second World War commemorations. Further topics included Orange Halls, and sporting and community facilities in the border region.
The meeting also touched on Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration agreed at the European Council meeting in Brussels last weekend.
Speaking after the meeting the Taoiseach said:
The colours on our flag are white, orange and green in equal measure. Sometimes I feel that we haven’t fully lived up to that. The Good Friday Agreement acknowledges that people in Northern Ireland have the right to be British, Irish or both, and accepted as such. We should acknowledge that there are many people in our State that feel themselves to be both British and Irish. It’s something that we should accept too.
I was very pleased to welcome Rev. Gibson and his fellow members of the Orange Order from south of the border to Government Buildings today. This follows my visit to the Orange Order Museum in Belfast last June, when I invited Rev. Gibson to visit Dublin. It was also an opportunity for Rev. Gibson to raise issues of concern to Orange Order members in the State.
On many occasions, I have said that our job should be to build bridges, not borders. And I strongly believe that States can best be judged on how they treat minorities. This visit today is another step in an ongoing engagement between the Government and the Order. We must always keep channels of communication open as a basis for respectful discussion on matters of common interest. I Iook forward to ongoing dialogue between the Government and the Orange Order.