Order prepares for biggest Irish march

Order prepares for biggest Irish march

Final preparations are underway for the Orange Order's largest parade in the Republic of Ireland.

Thousands of people are expected to flock to the seaside village of Rossnowlagh in Co Donegal for the demonstration this weekend.

It comes amid a recent resurgence of the Orange Order in the southern border counties.

Many within that section of the Ulster Protestant community say they felt trapped by history when they were left a few miles on the wrong side of the border by partition - but they kept their culture and traditions alive and now celebrate them with renewed confidence.

"Numbers-wise everything is on the increase in Donegal," said Alan Laird, Convoy Worshipful Master.

We have dual nationality and that's one thing we are very proud of - it's not something we hide from and our neighbours know in the locality and understands that there's also a Britishness to us

Alan Laird

"It's something that's hard to understand as actual Protestant numbers are probably falling, but we've gone from strength to strength.

"All the halls in the area are second to none. All the bands affiliated to us are doing well on the competition circuit. It's just good times to be an Orangeman in Donegal at the moment."

The Queen's visit to Dublin was seen by many Protestants as a statement that their culture is now accepted - and the Irish Government has also funded the building of new halls.

Sinn Féin TD Padraig MacLochlainn says it is important that the neighbouring communities strive to develop a better understanding of each other.

He added: "I never want to see a situation, as an Irish Republican and as a TD for Donegal, where those of the Protestant tradition, of the Ulster Scots tradition and of the Orange tradition, feel they have to keep their heads down.

"That's a key challenge for me, to always reassure them and reach out and I hope I've done that, I've tried to do it in the past and that's a key challenge for all of us."

© UTV

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