The leader of the Orange Order has told unionists they can be confident about the future of Northern Ireland.
Grand Master Edward Stevenson was commenting at the unveiling of a stone marking last year’s centenary of the creation of Northern Ireland.
Among those who attended the event at the Orange Order’s headquarters in East Belfast were DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and TUV leader Jim Allister.
A bid by unionist parties to erect a centenary stone at Parliament Buildings in Stormont last year was blocked by Sinn Fein.
The party insisted the stone had been “designed and commissioned by representatives of one tradition” and accused unionists of failing to consult with other parties about their plan.
The stone unveiled at Schomberg House on Saturday was made from basalt quarried in Co Antrim.
A service of dedication was led by the institution’s grand chaplain Rev Alistair Smyth.
The Orange Order is also planning a centenary parade on May 28 after plans to mark the anniversary last year were disrupted due to Covid-19.
Mr Stevenson said it was important to mark a “hugely significant milestone in our history”.
“Disappointingly but predictably, throughout 2021 there were those who told us that there is nothing to celebrate,” he said.
“They sought to belittle, undermine and erase the history of our people and our country.
“Let me be very clear, over the past 12 months and more the Orange family has been unashamedly celebrating Northern Ireland.
“We are all immensely proud of this place and its achievements in the past 10 decades.
“The Orange Institution has been an integral part of Northern Ireland’s history and many of those considered to be instrumental in its creation were members of our order.
“I am firmly of the belief that it is that proud history which allows us to be confident and secure in our sense of place, in our identity and in our country as together we look forward to the next 100 years.”
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