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Unionist leader Drew Nelson to address Seanad today

It will be the first time a member of the Orange Order has ever addressed a house of the Oireachtas.

Drew Nelson (File photo)
Drew Nelson (File photo)
Image: Paul Faith/PA Wire/Press Association Images

IN A HISTORIC first the grand secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge will address the Seanad today, saying this morning that he hopes it is the start of an “increased normalisation of relationships” between people on the whole island of Ireland.

Drew Nelson will address the Seanad at around midday today in what will be the first time that a member of the Orange Order has addressed either the upper or lower house in the Oireachtas.

The invitation was extended to the Unionist leader earlier this month ahead of 1916 rising centenary commemorations in the coming years and will come on foot the historic handshake between Martin McGuinness and Queen Elizabeth in Belfast last week.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland this morning Nelson said that he hoped the address to the Seanad today would “be the start of an increased normalisation of relationships between the two communities and between the different communities on these islands”.

“In particular what I am thankful for is that there is coming into play in mainstream civic society in the Republic a recognition of a value of the minority protestant community,” he added.

Nelson admitted recently  that such an invite would have been “unthinkable” up until a few years ago.

This latest development comes on foot of the government’s hope to mark the 100th anniversary of one of the most significant event in its history in a respectful and inclusive way.

Nelson will address the Seanad at around midday today and there will be an opportunity for the five Seanad groups and a Sinn Féin senator to respond.

More: Government asks historians for advice on centenary commemorations

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Hugh O'Connell

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