28/11/2008

President Heals Division In Orange Hall Visit

Belfast-born Mary McAleese has made history as the first Irish President to make an official visit to an Orange hall.

Yesterday, she was the special guest at Brakey Orange Hall in Bailieborough, Cavan where she was greeted by Country Grand Master, Henry Latimer and officers of the lodge.

Among the highlights of her speech on this groundbreaking occasion was reference to the recent death of an Irish man killed with the Royal Marine in Afghanistan and the way the 90th Anniversary of the ending of the Great War was commemorated in both parts of the island.

"We had the extraordinary scenes at the funeral of Robert McKibben, a young local man, killed in service with the British Army as a member of the Royal Marines in Afghanistan.

"He received a beautifully dignified funeral in his own town in the West of Ireland, his coffin carried by six uniformed colleagues from the Royal Marines and thousands of his townsmen and women there to show their sorrow and respect," the President recalled.

She also looked to the more recent past with former DUP Leader Ian Paisley sitting down as an equal partner in government with Martin McGuinness.
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"Now Dr Paisley's successor Peter Robinson is carrying on that torch as, along with Martin McGuinness and their colleagues in Government, they deepen that partnership for the betterment of all the people of Northern Ireland," she said.

However, her condemnation of an attack on the Cavan Orange hall, which destroyed the original facility - and her reference to the Cavan Orange Grand Master, Henry Latimer - as a "good Cavan man, a good Irish man and a good Orangeman" - will have fitted in well with her call to "end the bitter culture of Either-Or, of Them Versus Us".

"It is possible to be both Irish and British, possible to be both Orange and Irish," she insisted, while condemning "intemperate acts of vandalism that have been visited on some Orange Halls", including Brakey.

She said: "Such acts are a throw-back to another time, and we condemn them utterly and unequivocally. The tit-for-tat that is visited on GAA clubs just brings it home to us how utterly wasteful and humanly tragic are these episodes and what a waste of the lives of those who can see no further than such vandalism."

See: Soldiers Remembered In Cross Border Commemoration

See: Honour For Irish Serviceman Killed In Afghanistan

(BMcC/KMcA)

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