TUV deputy and Orange history enthusiast says DUP should focus on promoting the 'neglected' culture of unionism after Paul Givan's remarks on the Irish language

A keen promoter of Orange history has said that the DUP would be best concentrating its efforts on reversing the “neglect” of unionist heritage, after Paul Givan gave interviews extolling the value of the Irish language.
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Ron McDowell, who is also the deputy leader of the TUV, was reacting to remarks made on Wednesday by Mr Givan, which he then expanded on in yesterday’s edition of the ‘Nolan Show’.

It comes as the DUP attempts to reposition itself as a more all-encompassing party.

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The DUP MLA declared: “Unionists can no longer afford to be narrow-minded – we need to be progressive.”

Ron McDowell pictured on the roof of Clifton Street Orange Hall, BelfastRon McDowell pictured on the roof of Clifton Street Orange Hall, Belfast
Ron McDowell pictured on the roof of Clifton Street Orange Hall, Belfast

Mr Givan had said on Wednesday: “I think it's important that we remember that the [Irish] language isn't unique to one particular community in Northern Ireland – it does have value right across our community ... I believe it can be a shared language for everybody in Northern Ireland.”

He then made similar comments on Mr Nolan's Radio Ulster morning show yesterday, saying the Union “is not going to be achieved through a very crude demographic headcount of us and them based on religious identity ... therefore you have to win hearts and minds”.

He also said: “Why would somebody want to change if they feel their cultural identity is respected in the current status quo?”

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Mr McDowell, a Belfast councillor for the Court district of north-west Belfast, is curator of the museum at Belfast's Clifton Street Orange Hall, the city's main hall.

He has often spoken and given tours about Orangeism's ties to the language through figures like Richard Rutledge Kane – a former county grand master of Belfast, Church of Ireland minister, and promoter of Irish language revival body The Gaelic League (now more usually called Conradh na Gaeilge).

“I've no problem with the Irish language or culture; Presbyterians first embraced the Irish language as a means of evangelising the gaelic people on the island,” Mr McDowell told the News Letter.

“But where I have real concerns is that Paul Givan is elected from the unionist community, and Emma Pengelly – who was also playing gaelic [camogie] yesterday – was elected from the unionist community: and unionist and British heritage and traditions have fared woefully badly at the hands of the current DUP government.

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“Look at Fernhill House and Craigavon House [two stately homes of historic importance to Orangeism],” he said, adding that Clifton Street hall is likewise in a state of “disrepair”.

“Marching bands and Orange traditions don't get the funding that they'd proportionally be entitled to.

“The DUP need to focus on delivering for their own communities and the people who elected them before they start promoting a nationalist agenda.

“So I've no problem with the representation and support for Irish language, culture, and their community.

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“But when you look at the neglect of unionist heritage of culture, then it's quite sad.”

North Belfast DUP MLA Phillip Brett said in response: “Our job is to secure our place in the UK by making everyone feel welcome and at home in Northern Ireland.

”The DUP has been delivering investment in our Ulster British culture, whether that was support to enable Orange Halls to be redeveloped and modernised or support for our marching bands...

”Just last month, the DUP helped secure £154,000 for Clifton Street Orange Hall from Belfast City Council and we look forward to even more investment announcements in the coming weeks.

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"The Union will not be secured by a parliament or a court but by the people who live here if a border poll is ever called.

"Unionism should be winning converts for our cause rather than searching out heretics.”