Grand Secretary of the Orange Order Drew Nelson has died at the age of 60.
The senior Orangeman played a leading role within the organisation since his election to the position in 2004.
He passed away on Monday morning after being ill for a short time.
Leading the tributes, Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland Edward Stevenson remembered Mr Nelson as their “greatest ever advocate”.
He went on: “No other individual, over the course of the past decade, has done more to champion the cause of the Institution and its membership.
“His contribution to promoting a tradition he was immensely proud to represent, was truly outstanding.”
Dromore man Drew Nelson was District Master of Lower Iveagh District in Co Down before being elected as Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland in December 2012, a position he held for 12 years.
While in office he was part of Orange delegations which met senior political and civic figures, including First Ministers, Secretary of States and US ambassadors.
Mr Stevenson went on: “Today, the Orange Institution has lost not only its heartbeat, but perhaps its greatest ever advocate.
“Whilst never compromising his beliefs as a principled and unashamed Unionist, Drew’s pragmatism and strategic vision played a key role in the Institution’s evolution as a major stakeholder in this Province, and its ongoing community outreach.
“Indeed, his historic address to the Irish Senate in 2012 broke new ground in this regard.
“His greatest legacy was perhaps the symbolic visit of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales to the birthplace of Orangeism earlier this year.
“Such high-level recognition for the Institution, and other acknowledgements by wider civic society, simply would not have happened without Drew’s visionary leadership.
“The thoughts and prayers of the entire Institution are with the Nelson family circle at this time.”