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Orange Order meeting with Leo Varadkar in Dublin ends with pledge to keep talking

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) meets with the Grand Secretary of the Orange Lodge Mervyn Gibson to discuss issues affecting its members south of the border. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has vowed to continue dialogue with the Orange Order after meeting a delegation led by grand secretary Rev Mervyn Gibson in Dublin.

Yesterday's discussions at the capital's Government Buildings follows June's visit by the Fine Gael leader to the order's Schomberg House headquarters in east Belfast.

Mr Varadkar was accompanied by Minister for European Affairs Helen McEntee as they discussed Protestant schools and general education in the Republic, along with support for tourism projects focussing on the Battle of the Boyne.

The meeting also touched on Brexit, the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration agreed at the European Council on Sunday.

Speaking after the meeting, the taoiseach said the colours of the Irish tricolour were "white, orange and green in equal measure".

"Sometimes I feel that we haven’t fully lived up to that – the Good Friday Agreement acknowledges that people in Northern Ireland have the right to be British, Irish or both, and accepted as such," he said.

"We should acknowledge that there are many people in our state that feel themselves to be both British and Irish. It’s something that we should accept too."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with Orange Order Grand Master Edward Stevenson at Belfast's Museum of Orange Heritage in June. Picture by Hugh Russell

The taoiseach said countries "can best be judged on how they treat minorities".

"This visit today is another step in an ongoing engagement between the government and the order," he said.

"We must always keep channels of communication open as a basis for respectful discussion on matters of common interest."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) and Grand Secretary of the Orange Lodge, Reverend Mervyn Gibson met in Dublin on November 26 2018. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) meets the Grand Secretary of the Orange Lodge, Reverend Mervyn Gibson at Government Buildings to discuss issues affecting its members south of the border. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

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