Irish president declines Orange Order parade invitation

Irish president Michael D Higgins
Irish president Michael D Higgins

The Irish president has declined an invitation to attend the Orange Order’s annual Rossnowlagh demonstration in Donegal.

The Order – which in recent years has attempted to increase understanding of its work among southern politicians – had last year publicly invited Michael D Higgins to see the parade for himself.

The Institution has commented very briefly on the declined invitation to next Saturday’s Rossnowlagh demonstration, saying that it was “disappointed” but that it hoped that the Irish president would join it at a future event.

During his speech in Rossnowlagh last year, Orange Grand Master Edward Stevenson recalled the Queen’s visit to the Republic in which “with great decorum and respect” she visited sites of great significance to Irish nationalism.

He went on: “It is against this backdrop, and from this platform today, that I publicly invite the president of the Republic of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, to join us and witness for himself next year the colour and spectacle of the only Twelfth demonstration in this jurisdiction.

“You will be made most welcome here in Rossnowlagh, President Higgins, and I trust you will accept the genuine invitation in the spirit of goodwill and neighbourliness in which it is intended.

“In your inaugural speech, you spoke of a ‘common shared future built on the spirit of co-operation’, about ‘equality’ and ‘respect for all’.

“What better way to make such words a reality by reaching out in a hand of friendship to the minority Protestant community in the Republic; the symbolism of which would have positive ramifications beyond the boundaries of Co Donegal.”

However, the president has now formally declined the invitation.

The news was conveyed to the Orange Order in a letter from Conor O’Raghallaigh, the president’s deputy secretary general.

In the brief letter last month he wrote: “On behalf of President Michael D Higgins, I would like to thank you for your invitation for him to attend the July 12th Orange commemoration at Rossnowlagh, Co Donegal.

“Unfortunately, the president will not be in a position to attend this event.”

An Orange Order spokesman said the Institution was “disappointed” at the response.

He added: “We hope the president of the Republic of Ireland will be able to join us on some future occasion.”

Last month, former Irish president Mary McAleese and her husband attended the opening of the Orange Order’s new museum at Schomberg House in east Belfast.