Wednesday, June 29

Irish President Urged To Attend Centennial Service With Queen | Ireland

Irish President Michael D. Higgins has sparked a political feud with Northern Ireland unionists by avoiding a commemoration of the partition of the island 100 years ago.

Higgins said he would not attend a church service with the Queen next month to mark the creation of Northern Ireland because the event had become politicized.

Higgins also said the invitation incorrectly referred to him as President of the Republic of Ireland, rather than President of Ireland.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), accused Higgins on Friday of preventing reconciliation and urged him to reconsider. The Ulster Unionist party and the Alliance expressed their disappointment at the president’s decision. Some called it insulting and disrespectful.

The dispute took the British and Irish governments by surprise because Higgins, a largely ceremonial head of state who is independent from the Irish government, has often advocated reconciliation, including appearing alongside Queen Elizabeth and in 2014 the first visit. of state of an Irish head of state. been to the UK.

It is the most serious diplomatic outbreak in a year-long series of events to mark the creation of Northern Ireland in 1921. Formed from six of Ireland’s 32 counties, it had a Protestant majority who wished to remain under British rule while the rest of Ireland gained de facto independence.

Sinn Féin and the SDLP, which represent Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland, have avoided many centennial events, letting the British government and unionists mark the founding of the state with a low-key program.

Higgins was expected to join the Queen in a church service in Armagh on October 21. Earlier this week, it emerged that he would not be attending, prompting unionists to seek clarification. After several days of silence, Higgins informed Irish journalists on Thursday that they are covering his four-day visit to Rome, where he will meet with Pope Francis.

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The president said that the event’s title, which he said was to “mark the centenary of the partition of Ireland and the formation of Northern Ireland,” made it inappropriate for him to attend.

“That [had started out as] an invitation to a religious service had in fact become a political statement, ”he told the Irish times. “I was also referred to as the President of the Republic of Ireland. I am the President of Ireland. “

Referring to the Queen, he said: “I am not disparaging anyone and I am not part of anyone’s boycott of any other event in Northern Ireland. I wish the best for their service, but they understand that I have the right to exercise discretion as to what I believe is appropriate for my assistance. “

Higgins was enraged at the DUP’s claims that this amounted to a slight. “It’s a bit too much, to be honest with you. I have been to Northern Ireland to participate in events. Often there hasn’t been a lot of traffic from the DUP folks who are now criticizing me ”.

Donaldson told the BBC on Friday, the president’s comments were disappointing and “did not lead to” reconciliation. “Not acknowledging the existence of Northern Ireland does not help anyone.”

The Irish government said it would consider any invitation for a government representative to attend and that the president was free to make his own decision.

In a commentary article for The Guardian in February, Higgins urged all parties to remember complex and uncomfortable aspects of the shared history of Britain and Ireland.

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