Orange order meeting to elect new grand master

robert saulters Robert Saulters presided over one of the most difficult periods in the institution's history

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The ruling body of the Orange Order is meeting in County Londonderry on Wednesday to elect a new grand master.

Between 120 to 150 delegates from every district in Ireland will attend.

Delegates will also elect a number of party officers for other posts within the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland. A result is expected around lunchtime.

The current Grand Master Robert Saulters announced that he was standing down last year. He has held the post for 14 years.

Orange Order expert Clifford Smyth said there were three men in the running to succeed Mr Saulters.

"The front runner is man called Eddie Stephenson from County Tyrone, but there are two other names out there that represent different wings of Orangeism," Mr Smyth said.

"One of them is Denis Watson, the county grand master of County Armagh and the other is the Rev Stephen Dickinson.

Refused

Robert Saulters became grand master at the height of the Drumcree dispute in 1996. Orangemen have been prevented from walking down the Garvaghy Road since 1998.

He headed an orange delegation to meet Cardinal Brady, the Irish government and the SDLP.

Mr Saulters refused to meet with Sinn Fein and the Parades Commission.

Under Mr Saulter's leadership the order severed its official link with the Ulster Unionist party.

Order sources said neither that controversy, nor the recent death of his wife, are the reasons he is stepping down.

The meeting to elect a new grand master and other party officers is usually held in December but had to be cancelled because of bad weather.

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