By attending the religious service in Northern Ireland the Irish president, Michael Higgins, would have added to his past gestures
A letter from John Cushnahan:
In the search for peace and reconciliation, heads of state as well as elected politicians have also made important gestures to assist progress.
As President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, on a visit to Northern Ireland in 1993, shook the hand of Gerry Adams — this was regarded as a ‘historic’ gesture in the search for peace.
As the United Kingdom head of state, Queen Elizabeth has also made courageous gestures.
In 2011, she attended a wreath-laying ceremony in Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance on the first day of her historic State visit.
In what was described as a hugely symbolic gesture reflecting a new era in relations between the countries, the British monarch bowed her head as she laid a wreath at the memorial for those who died fighting for Irish freedom, before observing a minute’s silence.
Then in 2012, in a further spirit of reconciliation, she shook the hand of the former commander of the IRA, Martin McGuinness, despite the fact that the IRA had murdered Lord Mountbatten who was a member of the royal family.
They shook hands at a private meeting at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, involving a group of seven people, including Irish President Higgins and Northern Ireland’s first minister Peter Robinson. They later shook hands in public.
In 2015, her son, Charles, and heir as head of state shook hands with Gerry Adams who has always unapologetically justified the murder of Lord Mountbatten.
Gestures are important and all these gestures were warmly welcomed throughout Ireland at the time.
By accepting the invitation to attend a religious service organised by all the four main Churches in Ireland, President Higgins would have added to the many gestures he has already made in the search for reconciliation.
John Cushnahan, Former Leader Alliance Party and Former Fine Gael MEP, Limerick
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