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DUP Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson met with representatives of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland at Schomberg House yesterday (Thursday). He was joined at the meeting by MPs Carla Lockhart and Gavin Robinson.

Speaking after the meeting Mr Donaldson said, "The 12th July celebrations are not just important for the Orange Institution, but they represent one of the largest and most vibrant cultural celebrations in the UK or beyond. Whilst last year we celebrated the "12th at home", this year there will be a return to the parades and demonstrations many of us enjoy, albeit scaled back to reflect the ongoing restrictions and public health concerns.

The Orange Institution is an integral part of the fabric of Northern Ireland and nowhere has that been more evident than during the Covid pandemic. The responsible leadership offered by Grand Lodge Officers was backed up by massive community outreach right across Northern Ireland. Such practical support offered by Districts and individual lodges was a lifeline to many elderly and vulnerable people.

Those roots right to the heart of our community mean that members of the Orange Institution have felt the economic impact of the Northern Ireland Protocol as well as understanding the constitutional damage it brings. The Institution stands alongside every single unionist elected representative in Northern Ireland in opposition to the Protocol and the barriers to trade it has created. The Orange Institution represents part of civic society in Northern Ireland and the views it articulates should be heeded by our government."