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Page last updated at 15:47 GMT, Friday, 9 July 2010 16:47 UK

Will Order play the Orange card?

Orangemen
Orangemen follow the flag

Members of the Orange Order are divided on the extent to which it should be involved in politics.

The Order likes to highlight its religious and cultural aspects but in recent times it has taken a more political turn.

In December 2009 it hosted secret talks between the UUP and DUP leadership.

When the meeting was uncovered the Sinn Fein MLA, Alex Maskey, described the Orange Order as a 'very political organisation'.

This week on the Politics Show, Yvette Shapiro, looks at the tensions within the Order concerning unionist unity.

The head of the Grand Lodge, Robert Saulters, is keen to encourage solidarity between the various political wings of unionism.

'The one phrase that really upsets our enemies is unionist unity,' he says.

'They are unable to cope with the prospect and we should take note of that.'

The prospect of Martin McGuinness becoming First Minister after next year's assembly elections is one of the motivating factors behind the Order's growing political involvement, but some UUP MLAs have expressed their doubts.

Tom Elliott is both a UUP MLA and a member of Grand lodge. He smells a rat.

Tom Elliott MLA on unionist unity

'There is a perception that there is a DUP agenda and it's being called for at this time for a particular reason,' he says, although Mr Elliott does see a place for wider co-operation.

Clearly there are some on the UUP side who fear being swallowed up by the larger party.

Unionist co-operation ahead of the general election amounted to joint support for the independent candidate, Rodney Connor, in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

The result: Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew scraped in by a handful of votes.

With the assembly elections less than a year off the question of unionist cross-party co-operation will not go away and there are some within the Order who are keen to see an Orange involvement.



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Orange Order held unionist talks
28 Jan 10 |  Northern Ireland
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08 Jul 10 |  Northern Ireland
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