President to attend Rossnowlagh “Twelfth”?

There are persistent but unconfirmed reports that President Mary McAleese may attend the annual Twelfth of July celebrations to be held in Rossnowlagh on Saturday July 9th.

There are persistent but unconfirmed reports that President Mary McAleese may attend the annual Twelfth of July celebrations to be held in Rossnowlagh on Saturday July 9th.

Official sources have either declined to comment or have told this newspaper they are not aware of any planned attendance by President McAleese at the July celebrations which are unique as Rossnowlagh hosts the largest Orange parade outside of Northern Ireland every year.

However, the rumours have continued over the past week and have gained some momentum within Orange Order circles according to Democrat sources.

A member of the Orange Order in Donegal confirmed that he had been informed on a confidential basis that the president would attend and that the reaction amongst the Order had been “extremely positive”.

“The Queen’s visit to Ireland was a landmark occasion for this country and it shows that as a country we have matured.

“We are all Irish and President McAleese has always recognised both traditions on this island and she will be given a true Donegal welcome should she decide to come,” he said.

President McAleese and her husband Martin have visited Rossnowlagh on numerous occasions in the past staying in the luxurious Sandhouse Hotel but General Manager of the hotel Paul Diver refused to comment on the current speculation: “Privacy and confidentiality are two of the most important aspects in the Sandhouse and we do not comment on guests who have or are due to stay with us - they come here to enjoy the peace and tranquillity that Rossnowlagh has to offer.”

President McAleese and her husband Martin have visited Rossnowlagh on numerous occasions in the past staying in the luxurious Sandhouse Hotel but General Manager of the hotel Paul Diver refused to comment on the current speculation: “Privacy and confidentiality are two of the most important aspects in the Sandhouse and we do not comment on guests who have or are due to stay with us - they come here to enjoy the peace and tranquillity that Rossnowlagh has to offer.”

In a history-making gesture in 2009 Donegal County Council was officially represented at this event for the first time ever when County Manager Michael McLoone was a special guest at a pre-parade lunch. Mr. McLoone told his hosts at the VIP lunch in the Sandhouse Hotel that the council was pleased to facilitate the Order at a local level as part of its contribution to “working through” the peace process.

Mr. McLoone’s invitation was a direct result of a campaign by President Mary McAleese’s husband, Martin, to encourage ongoing communication between local authorities and the Orange Order in border counties.

On that occasion the main speaker, Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland Grand Master Robert Saulter paid tribute to the reception leaders of the Order receive when visiting Government Ministers and other politicians in the Republic.

The Rossnowlagh parade has long been held up as a symbol of what can be achieved by peoples of differing cultures not afraid of each other’s traditions. The Donegal County Grand Master, David Mahon, is proud of his traditions and his Donegal roots and once when asked if he considered himself Irish he replied “I don’t think in those terms but I do have an Irish Passport.

Mr. Mahon was a guest of President McAleese in May 2006 but never has attended her July 12th. Garden Party as it would mean missing Rossnowlagh.

Rossnowlagh also proved a popular destination for former British PM, Tony Blair who enjoyed his childhood holidays in the Sandhouse and referred to them fondly in his recent autobiography.