Drew Nelson will be remembered as a “principled and unashamed unionist,” but also a pragmatist and strategic visionary, his fellow Orange leaders have said.
The Institution’s grand master, deputy grand master and a number of other Orange figures have praised the Dromore solicitor as a “trailblazer”.
Grand Master Edward Stevenson said: “Whether it be in the lodge room, the boardroom or the confines of the highest political office, Drew was in his element. His well-informed, articulate and thoughtful viewpoint would always captivate his target audience.
“Whilst never compromising his beliefs as a principled and unashamed unionist, Drew’s pragmatism and strategic vision played a key role in the Institution’s evolution as a major stakeholder in this Province, and its ongoing community outreach. Indeed, his historic address to the Irish Senate in 2012 broke new ground in this regard.”
Mr Stevenson added: “His greatest legacy was perhaps the symbolic visit of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales to the birthplace of Orangeism earlier this year. Such high-level recognition for the Institution, and other acknowledgements by wider civic society, simply would not have happened without Drew’s visionary leadership.”
Deputy Grand Master Harold Henning praised his former colleague as the “modernising force” of the Institution and at the forefront of community development activities.
“Drew literally was the engine room of the Institution – his enthusiasm knew no bounds. He lived, breathed and loved Orangeism. No other Orangeman, of perhaps any generation, will ever match his motivation and drive to see the Institution succeed and flourish.”
Mr Henning added: “Drew was a trailblazer for Orangeism – the like of which we will never see again.”
A spokesman for the Independent Loyal Orange Institution said: “It is with great sadness that we, the members of the Independent Loyal Orange Institution, learn of the untimely passing of Wor Bro Drew Nelson Grand Secretary of the Orange Order.
“We wish to convey to his mother and all his family circle our heartfelt sympathy at this sad and difficult time.”