A LEADING Irish nationalist politician has backed the appointment of a senior member of the Orange Order as Rangers’ new PR chief.

Neale Richmond, a key ally of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, described the former Democratic Unionist Party councillor David Graham as “an utter professional” with “excellent communication skills”.

The Dublin-born Fine Gael Senator got to know Graham just over a year ago when he was introduced to him by one of Varadkar’s senior advisors on Northern Ireland. 

READ MORE: New Rangers PR chief David Graham labeled Celtic Park ‘the piggery’ in Facebook post

The move was part of a strategy by the Irish Government to improve relationships and contact between the Unionist and Nationalist communities amid increased tensions and uncertainty due to Brexit and the collapse of Stormont.

It is understood their cross party work was helped by a shared love of rugby. Both Richmond and Graham are passionate supporters of the Irish national side.

Richmond said: “David and I’s politics would be very different but he is an utter professional who I was able to work closely with at a testing time.

“We bonded over a mutual love of sport and I’ve no doubt his excellent communications skills will be a huge asset to a club he’s a passionate fan of.”

Asked to expand on their differences on issues, such as same-sex marriage and the constitutional issues of Irish unity and Brexit, Richmond added: “I’m not sure what David’s stance on social issues are to be honest. I am a strong supporter of both marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose. I am a constitutional nationalist that hopes for a United Ireland in my lifetime.

“I am a passionate supporter of the EU who believes Brexit is an absolute folly.”

Graham’s appointment as the Rangers communications chief was announced last week.

He has since stood down as a Belfast city councillor, but remains a member of the Orange Order.

He listed on his city council register of interests that he is a Worshipful Master of the Orange Order and a member of the Royal Black Preceptory. Graham represented the leafy Balmoral area of Belfast on the city council.

He will succeed former Daily Record journalist Jim Traynor as Rangers head of communications.

“I am delighted to be joining Rangers,” said Graham, a former teacher last week. “As a lifelong Rangers supporter, it is an honour to work for the world’s most successful football club.

Glasgow Times: Jim Traynor Jim Traynor

“When the opportunity arose, I was very pleased to fulfil this role and am looking forward to getting started. I am excited by the board’s vision for Rangers as we work towards our 150th anniversary and beyond.”

READ MORE: Rangers new PR chief and senior Orange Order figure David Graham in 'no surrender' unionism speech

Stewart Robertson, Rangers’ chief executive, said: “David shares our vision, passion and enthusiasm for the club. We are delighted David has chosen to join us and strengthen our team. He is a welcome addition and I look forward to working with him.”

Graham’s membership of the DUP, which oppose same-sex marriage, also stands in contrast to Rangers’ Everyone, Anyone campaign, which has been publicised heavily in its stated aim to “champion diversity, encourage tolerance and understanding and promote positive behaviour.”