“the beginning of a new and improved relationship..”

The Secretary of State for Wales, etc, Peter Hain, took time off today from his busy campaign, occasional court appearances and any other distractions, to make his own little bit of history. According to the NIO statement, it’s “the first time that a Secretary of State has ever visited Orange headquarters” .. otherwise known as Schomberg House, named after Frédéric-Armand, 1st Duke of Schönberg whose remains are buried at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin where there is a plaque erected in his memory by Dean Jonathan Swift. Updated belowFrom the NIO statement

Peter Hain said: “The Orange Order is proud of its history but it should be confident that it also has an important role to play in the future.

“The future for Northern Ireland must be a shared one, and the Orange Order has its part to play to enhance mutual respect and understanding for all traditions and cultures.”

The visit by Peter Hain to Schomberg House is the first time that a Secretary of State has ever visited Orange headquarters and he took the opportunity to praise the initiative of engagement undertaken by the Orange Order leadership.

He said: “I hope that my visit marks the beginning of a new and improved relationship between the Orange Order and the Government.

“At our most recent meeting, you presented me with a dossier which listed a range of concerns. I am committed to do what I can to help address those concerns.

“On the issue of insurance for Orange Halls, I have asked David Hanson to meet insurance companies to look at this issue and I will keep you informed of any developments.

“The initiative of engagement taken by the Orange leadership last year was a positive and courageous step and was one of the key reasons why Northern Ireland enjoyed its most peaceful marching seasons for many years.”

Update The short BBC report adds an interesting line

He met DUP leader Ian Paisley and Tom Elliott – who is an assembly member and grand master of the Order in Fermanagh.

Mr Hain denied he had broken the convention of ministers remaining impartial during election campaigns.

Well, if Mr Hain denies he has broken the convention then he obviously hasn’t… obviously…