UPPER Bann MLA Samuel Gardiner will rub shoulders with Irish president Michael D Higgins next week – in the expansive estate once owned by a firebrand unionist politician of the nineteenth and early twentieth century vehemently opposed to Irish Home Rule.
Colonel James Saunderson, who was MP for Cavan and later North Armagh at the turn of the 19th century, is famous for his stirring parliamentary speech: “Home Rule may pass this House (Westminster) but it will never pass the Bann Bridge at Portadown.”
More than 100 years later, his words are engraved on an obelisk raised a month ago in front of the Colonel’s statue in the centre of Portadown to mark the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant.
And next Saturday, August 18, Mr Gardiner is off to the 300-acre former Saunderson estate – the old power base of the Saundersons in Co Cavan – as a guest of honour at the opening of an International Scout Centre.
The 30-acre development covers part of the fomer Saunderson estate – it is called Castlesaunderson International Scout Centre – including a permanent jamboree site, capable of accommodating 1,000 people, and is on the border area between Cavan, Fermanagh and Monaghan.
It is one of five global sites, the others being in Sweden, the Philippines, Switzerland and Panama.
Mr Gardiner said: “It’s a delight to be involved in the revitalisation of the Saunderson estate.
“The Scouting facility is a wonderful one and it is an honour to be invited to the opening.”