The Armagh centenary service was not a celebration of Northern Ireland
News Letter editorial of Friday October 22 2021:
The service in Armagh yesterday to mark the centenary of the partition of Ireland was a dignified occasion.
The event at St Patrick’s Church of Ireland cathedral, with its beautiful and historic hilltop location, was attended by dignitaries from across Britain and Ireland, from children to political leaders.
The prime minister Boris Johnson sat near the front of the church, as did Ireland’s foreign minister Simon Coveney.
It was a thoughtful ceremony, perhaps at points labouring too much to avoid controversy by giving prominence to various elements such as the hopes of school pupils. There was a range of beautiful music. But this was in no way a celebration of Northern Ireland’s 100 years.
In fact, it seemed to be carefully arranged as a neutral marking of the historical fact of the division of the island.
There was criticism of partition, and by implication Northern Ireland, from Archbishop Eamon Martin.
That the Queen was not present was highly regrettable, but last night’s worrying news that she spent Wednesday overnight in hospital is confirmation that there was no diplomatic consideration in that absence. People across Northern Ireland will be wishing Her Majesty a full recovery.
It is important to have confirmed the fact that the monarch was not under political pressure to stay away in order to spare any embarrassment of President Michael D Higgins.
The Irish president deserves no such sensitive handling. He could not even attend an event that was made studiously neutral – almost insultingly neutral to those of us who love NI.
The centenary year is almost over but there has been no occasion of note to celebrate our country, which is still going strong after 100 years, despite every effort to undermine its legitimacy, including more than one terrorist campaign.
We hear so much about a new Ireland but the drama around yesterday’s non celebration of NI shows how much of the nationalist Ireland of old endures.
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