Varadkar to visit Orange Order headquarters in Northern Ireland

Taoiseach to launch west Belfast festival later

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar defended his decision to launch the west Belfast Féile an Phobail community event. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar defended his decision to launch the west Belfast Féile an Phobail community event. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will visit to the headquarters of the Orange Order in Northern Ireland this morning.

His visit to Schomberg House in Belfast will mark the first time the head of the Irish government has visited the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland’s headquarters.

He will be meeting Orange lodge members from the Irish Republic as part of his visit.

The tour will form part of a day-long trip in the North for Mr Varadkar.

The move comes at a time of tense relations between the Taoiseach and unionist politicians over Brexit, with the latter accusing Mr Varadkar’s government of aggressive tactics in negotiations over the shape of the border when the UK leaves the EU.

Later today, Mr Varadkar will launch this year’s programme for the Féile an Phobail community event in west Belfast.

This has prompted some criticism because the festival will feature a talk about an escape of IRA prisoners from the Maze Prison, Long Kesh, in 1983.

However, defending his decision to launch the festival, Mr Varadkar said that he was not considering cancelling his appearance and that it was a community festival which Ms Foster had spoken at in the past.

He even pointed out that English singer-songwriter Olly Murs who appeared on the X Factor TV talent show in 2009 was appearing at the festival.

“I believe the headline act this year is Olly Murs. I don’t think anyone could accuse him of being a die-hard republican,” said Mr Varadkar.